Big Brother given new access to Australians’ personal data

Big Brother given new access to Australians’ personal data, by Fergus Hanson.

Many of us are unaware a transformational digital initiative is about to involve every Australian: digital identity. Many are probably equally unaware of the problems with the approach, including the risk of a Western version of China’s social credit system that can effectively rank individuals and shape behaviour.

The new digital identity, known as GovPass, is the latest attempt to roll out a national identity scheme. Its forebears, the Hawke government’s Australia Card and the Howard government’s Access Card, fell over in the face of community backlash. GovPass, which is enabled by a new database of biometric ­templates that has been ­established for every Australian, makes them seem quaint.

In principle, a digital identity is not a bad idea. It is an essential microeconomic reform for a 21st century economy that has the ­potential to deliver significant productivity and efficiency gains.

It will allow you to quickly confirm your personal details, entitlements and authorisations, such as proving you are over 18 years, delegating the pick-up of prescriptions or automatically con­firming your concession status. …

As with other recent digitisation initiatives, the scheme also threatens to erode our rights. ­Because of the way these schemes are approached — solving individual departmental challenges rather than trying to empower citizens — each new digitisation ­initiative forces people to trade off more of their rights for the convenience offered.

Repeatedly we’re assured that everything’s fine. Only, often it is not. Opt in can ­become opt out. What is said to be safe and secure might mean warrantless police access. Without an overhaul in approach, digital identity will see more unnec­essary encroachment by govern­ment into our lives. …

If digital identity becomes the de facto way to buy alcohol, log on to social media, purchase tickets and travel, all the data that those transactions collect (such as where you are, how much you spend, what you buy and what you look at) can be linked to an individual identity and sold (via your agreement) to a third-party profile builder. This happens to an extent via loyalty cards and online but digital identity will ­enable full-blown social credit schemes by confirming identity with great confidence.

hat-tip Stephen Neil