Submission: Digital ID Bill 2023

In our submission about the Australian Government Digital Identity System (AGDIS) we have underscored our commitment to safeguarding civil liberties in the face of evolving digital identity systems.

While NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) endorses the codification of AGDIS, which includes the Document Verification Service and facial verification technology, concerns persist regarding the lack of an effective legal framework. Recent high-profile data breaches underscore the urgency of regulation and enforcement in identity protection. The impetus for the swift introduction of this legislation is the imperative to address cybercrime, but recent amendments fall short in addressing crucial issues.

The COVID-19 pandemic normalized mass data collection through contact-tracing apps, raising NSWCCL's concerns about ongoing data centralization and the datafication of Australians. Amendments to the Bill, made after the consultation period, inadequately address critical issues such as the secure collection, use, and storage of sensitive data, and the potential misuse of data for unintended purposes, particularly in law enforcement.

NSWCCL advocates for the adoption of an enforceable human rights framework, such as a Bill of Rights, to accompany AGDIS. Australia is the only liberal democracy lacking such a framework, distinguishing it from other OECD countries implementing digital identity systems. In Europe, where such systems exist, they are built on robust rights-based frameworks absent in the current Australian context.

To balance the benefits of digital ID, including convenience, efficiency, and lower cybercrime risk, NSWCCL emphasizes the need for an accessible remedy for individuals harmed by non-compliance. This could be achieved through statutory compensation rights for consumers, supported by appropriate and accessible dispute resolution schemes.

The NSWCCL objects to the delay or relegation of integral provisions related to redress following ID fraud and cybersecurity incidents to the Digital ID Rules. Timely implementation of measures, including notification, information, support, and assistance to affected individuals, is crucial in fostering public trust.

The Bill lacks express provisions preventing discriminatory uses of digital ID. Acknowledging the potential indirect discrimination against the elderly, those in rural areas, and individuals from diverse backgrounds, NSWCCL urges the inclusion of explicit safeguards to align with international human rights standards, particularly Article 2 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

NSWCCL remains committed to collaborating with stakeholders to ensure the adoption of a comprehensive legal framework that upholds civil liberties, protects against misuse, and fosters public trust in AGDIS.

More information about the inquiry can be found here.