Thursday, 30 March 2017

No Australia Card? Yes, Assistant Minister. Of course you are 100% believable

Hoping against hope I don’t have to eventually file this one under “How can you tell when Government is lying".

However, I suspect that the Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation is actually lying like the proverbial trooper, given the bare bones of the federated identity service and its attendent privacy & safety risks are on display at the Digital Transformation Agency.

The Register, 19 March 2017:

Australia's federal government is sticking with its plans for a federated identity service, but disruption minister Angus Taylor has moved to quell fears of a revived “Australia Card”*.

What first emerged last year looking like a “single identity” for all citizens across all Australian governments – before being dumped – isn't coming back.

Speaking at the Teach Leaders conference in the Blue Mountains on Sunday, Taylor – full title Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation – said the Digital Transformation Agency's (DTA's) identity project is now about setting standards rather than creating a single whole-of-government identity provider.

He also said the government considers it a citizen's right to have multiple digital identities for their interactions with government, if that's what they want.

Considering that last year, the then-DTA was trying to recruit state governments to its “federated identity” alpha (only getting the NSW government's support), the new direction looks like a considerable departure from the project's original ambitions.

Taylor said: “We don't see ourselves as creating a centralised solution that we'll roll out and everybody else has to come and play – that's not the answer. But we do need to agree on standards, and we do need to agree on principles as to how this will work.”

He also emphasised that the system had to be user-driven rather than top-down, and that citizens' consent is crucial to the model.

“I must be user-driven. If I want to have 45 identities across the Internet and across my applications, it should be my choice. If I want to have one, that's my choice too.”

He added that the “user-driven approach” has to extend to the citizen having a “genuine consent” about how they interact with a digital identity.

“That, to me, is essential to any solution, and the federal government won't endorse or be part of any solution that doesn't do exactly that.”

A formal announcement about the future of the federated identity project is coming “in the very, very near future.”......

*Comment: For readers unfamiliar with 1980s Australian politics – the “Australia Card” was proposed as a single ID for citizens in 1985.

Offered as an efficiency measure, it landed when “ID cards” in Nazi Germany and the Eastern Bloc were still fresh in many citizens' minds, especially for those who had arrived in Australia's first inrush of non-British immigration.

The uproar killed off the Australia Card after a two-year political battle, but not the concept: public service managers have never lost their love of tracking and identifying citizens.

From that point of view, Paul Shetler's DTO nearly achieved a huge social change by disguising it as “technological disruption”.

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