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

If you’ve ever found yourself quietly wondering what exactly federal officials mean when they throw around brand names like GovPass and myGovID, you’re not alone, but thankfully the Digital Transformation Agency has now provided some clarification.

After several years of discussions, deliberations, development and changes of direction, the federal government plans to begin issuing Australians with digital identity credentials through pilot programs later this year.

Most citizens won’t mind what they are called, but many of those who are interested in such things have found it somewhat difficult to follow the shifting plans and terminology over several years as multiple ministers and key executives have come and go.

The DTA’s GovPass name appeared first, and appeared to be the branding for the planned government-issued identity credentials themselves, such that citizens would register and receive their own personal GovPass.

That was until Michael Keenan introduced a new brand name soon after he was appointed Minister for Digital Transformation: myGovID, to align with myGov accounts, the My School website, My Health Record, and so on.

To make matters even more confusing, Australia Post also has a digital identity service available called Digital iD™ — but that’s a separate initiative to the other government projects.

Help me out here!

A new glossary on the updated DTA website explains that now, GovPass is just the name of a government program:

“GovPass is the name for the digital identity program of work being delivered. This includes everything from the policy and processes to the technology and systems.”

It also defines myGovID, which is essentially the name of a digital identity business run by the Australian Taxation Office as well as the name of the identity credentials it will roll out later this year, assuming it sticks to the schedule:

“myGovID is the Commonwealth Government-run identity provider. Setting up a myGovID account will be like a 100 point identity check, but done online, rather than in person in a government service centre. Once it is set up, a myGovID can be used over and over again as a form of identity to access different government service. This system is managed by the Australian Taxation Office.”

Keenan introduced myGovID in June, speaking to an IT industry group, and simply did not mention the name GovPass at all. It seemed pretty clear at the time that it had been replaced. However, GovPass remained in use and whether by accident or design, it became a general rule that the two names did not appear together.

Adding to this confusion most recently was the communique from the new Australian Digital Council, which does not mention myGovID but does refer to GovPass, confusingly describing it as “a secure digital identity service that will allow citizens to establish their identity once, and then use it multiple times to access different government services” — which sounds a lot more like myGovID, according to the definitions above.

Before the DTA drew our attention to their new glossary, in response to a request for some clarity, it was hard to be completely sure whether one term had replaced the other, whether they were interchangeable, or if they referred to two different things.

Looking on YouTube wouldn’t help; there one finds a video explaining a different “MyGovID” from the Irish Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, which had the name first.

Until very recently, the DTA website maintained a page about GovPass while its newer beta website hosted a page explaining myGovID at the same time, neither one mentioning the other name.

ATO muscling in on the brand

We found an explanation of myGovID on the ATO’s special website for software developers, but it didn’t have exactly what we were looking for.

“The Digital Transformation Agency has changed the Commonwealth digital identity provider’s name to myGovID to align with myGov, the Government’s authentication solution,” it helpfully informs us.

But there is still no mention of GovPass, and the ATO page adds to the confusion slightly by bringing in two other brand names for systems that myGovID will eventually replace.

The ATO states that myGovID was “formerly known as AUSid” in reference to its system for access to online services for non-residents who do business in Australia. Then it explains that myGovID will also “overcome the mobility and access limitations” of the AUSkey, which is used to log in to the Australian Business Register and will only remain available until 2020, when it will be “decommissioned” in favour of the new, all-purpose digital identity credential.

But wait, there’s more…

DTA’s new glossary also explains a range of other technical terminology it uses and key components of its work program like the trusted digital identity framework, a series of rules and standards, and the “identity exchange” which is designed to reduce the risk of privacy breaches:

“The identity exchange sits between the digital service and the identity provider. It protects the user’s privacy by making sure:

  • the digital service can’t see the user’s personal information
  • the identity provider can’t see which service the user is accessing

“This is called a ‘double blind’ exchange. The Commonwealth’s exchange will be managed by the Department of Human Services.”

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.