DTA seeks comms strategy to soothe privacy concerns over digital identity program

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday January 22, 2020

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The Digital Transformation Agency is on the hunt for a communication and engagement strategy to accompany its “whole of economy” Digital Identity program.

“The next stage of Digital Identity will see a broader rollout of more services to more people,” the DTA advertisement stated.

“The program needs to expand its approach to communications significantly, to inform all Australians about what it is and isn’t — highlighting potential benefits it offers for everyone and especially for those who choose to make use of it.”

The agency said the strategy should communicate the “use of biometrics within the Digital Identity system, benefits of these and safeguards built into the program to ensure security and privacy principles meet the expectations of the community”.

READ MORE: Digital identity brand confusion: do you know your GovPass from your myGovID?

It should also build on the program’s principles of people having a choice of identity provider, privacy and security by design, and being opt in, the DTA said, in what appears to be an attempt to tackle public distrust.

“Australia’s history of identity related projects raises concern for some stakeholders and is a central consideration of the Digital Identity program,” the advertisement said.

That history is likely the Australia Card debacle. In 1985, then-Prime Minister Bob Hawke proposed a national identification card known as the Australia Card, which sparked privacy concerns and eventually led to a double dissolution election before it was shelved in 1987.

The Commonwealth government’s digital identity service provider myGovID is set to replace AUSkey at the end of March, along with GovPass — the digital identity system. In 2018, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute criticised the initiative, comparing it to the Australia Card and pointing to legislative flaws.

READ MORE: Not mad, disappointed: DTA hits back after ASPI attacks federal digital identity plays

Former Human Services and Digital Transformation Minister Michael Keenan dismissed the concerns over myGovID, stating that “extensive work has been done to ensure that the privacy and security of users has been built into its very heart”.

“Every major government reform inevitably faces some level of opposition when challenging the status quo. In the case of technology initiatives, calls of ‘Big Brother’ are often associated with progress,” he wrote in The Mandarin.

“But if we were to continually yield to the views of the naysayers, we would still be lining up in queues at airports to have our passports checked, rather than breezing through using biometric SmartGates.”

Applications for developing the communications strategy close on January 26.

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