The Australian state of New South Wales has begun trialing the Beta version of its NSW Digital ID, and is already seeing positive results, reporting that its tests have delivered a customer satisfaction score of more than 90 percent.
The state government had announced plans to pilot a digital ID program based on “photo verification technology” last November, about a year after the government agency Service NSW issued a Request for Information concerning the use of facial recognition in public-facing online channels.
Those technological efforts are now coming to fruition: The NSW Digital ID app does indeed use a selfie-based onboarding process, asking users to submit two or more identity documents and “a selfie to match against your existing photo.” The Service NSW website adds that the selfie image will not be stored by the agency and that it will be discarded as soon as the user’s NSW Digital ID is created.
The project had been spearheaded by Victor Dominello, who served as NSW’s Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government and showed both enthusiasm and concern about the prospect of leveraging facial recognition technology. Dominello had proposed a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s use of facial recognition and other AI tech, and recently left his government post to head the UNSW-UTS Trustworthy Digital Society Hub, an academic lab set up to research citizen-centered digital platforms with a strong focus on ethical and privacy considerations. (Dominello’s post has now been filled by incoming Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Jihad Dib.
In announcing the success of its first pilots of the NSW Digital ID, the state government emphasized certain key advantages of the technology over traditional identity documents. It noted that a number of cyberattacks had occurred over the past year as “a result of businesses storing physical documents in a way that has left them vulnerable to identity theft.” And it highlighted the ability of Digital ID users to selectively share their personal information as required on a case-by-case basis – for example, verifying that they are over 18 without having to share date of birth or other personal information.
“NSW Digital ID will be optional for people of NSW and will be made available once rigorous testing, audit and reviews are completed to ensure information is safe and secure,” the announcement stated.
May 4, 2023 – by Alex Perala