Age pensioners may soon be required to have their faces scanned and analysed before they can access payments.
Under a Federal Government plan for Australia to become a world leader in digital government, those seeking to access a range of services – including the Age Pension, Medicare and online taxation – will need to take a photo and create a myGov ID. This will then be checked against driver’s licences and passports to confirm their identity.
The strategy is part of a pilot security program that is set to begin in October.
The trial will allow 100,000 people to apply for a tax file number (TFN) online. TFN applicants currently have to fill out a form – obtained either online or from a post office – and take it to a post office where their identification is verified.
Explaining the pilot program, Human Services Minister Michael Keenan says the TFN application process can take up to a month to complete, whereas the pilot will reduce that time to a single day – without applicants having to leave home.
The system is to be implemented on a voluntary basis but those who choose not to take part will be unable to access government services online. Instead, they will have to queue up at Centrelink to access these services.
Mr Keenan says he hopes the plan will see Australia become a world leader in ‘digital government’ by 2025.
However, IT experts are concerned about privacy and security, including that people could be ‘tracked’ through security cameras.
IT security expert Troy Hunt, who runs the website Have I been pwned? told news.com.au that a biometric system wasn’t without its faults.
“One of the problems is we want to be able to access things in a secure fashion, but passwords aren’t really great for doing that because a lot of us tend to use the same one for everything,” he said.
“Biometrics can be better in this aspect, but on the flip side, it is information that can’t really be changed if there is a security breach.”
Mr Hunt also raised the possibility that such a database – built with biometric data including fingerprints, iris scans and face photos – could be abused and used for reasons other than its intended purpose, such as tracking welfare recipients.
“What we want to see from the Australian Government is transparency about how this system is being used and where the information is going,” he said.
“They need to convince us that we can be confident in this system and trust them [with] this kind of data.”
Mr Keenan said digitisation would improve convenience and efficiency and deliver significant cost savings.
Can you see advantages in the pilot program? Would you be concerned about the security of the data?