120,000 Sign Petition Against Impending National Digital ID

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The Digital ID Bill 2023 is up for debate in the Australian Senate on March 27.

A senator will write to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese warning that the impending National Digital ID laws will open the floodgates for even more control over individual data.

Liberal Party Senator Alex Antic has garnered 123,000 signatures in an online petition opposing the new legislation ahead of its debate in the Senate.

The Digital ID Bill 2023 (pdf) is up for debate on March 27, according to a Senate document (pdf).

“On Wednesday, the Senate is set to debate the Albanese government’s Digital ID Bill and this is a bill I have been talking about for a long period of time,” Mr. Antic said in a video posted online.

“Many of you heard me talking about it because mainly of my concern about where this heads,” Mr. Antic said.

“This is a bill at the moment that’s pitched as though it is simply for your security, it will set up a nice friendly ID system so that you can interact with government, can interact with business.

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“But I don’t buy it. This is the first step, well the next step, in another long step towards a digital future which you don’t want.”

The senator said he will be speaking about the bill when it is introduced to the parliament on March. 27.

“This could very comfortably be tied in with a central bank digital currency, or with the social credit score, but you need digital ID before you even get to that.

“So I’ve got of reservations about this, as do 124,000 Australians who signed my petition.”

He explained thousands of Australians asked him to send a letter to the prime minister about the matter.

“That’s what we are doing today, we are sending off this petition. Thank you for those who signed it,” he said on March 25.

“I’ll be speaking against this bill when it comes up later in the week and stay tuned on that. We don’t want that, we don’t want this future.”

How Does the Digital ID Work?

The Digital ID legislation provides the government with a centralised platform for Australians to verify their identity online via a single platform.

Australians can already voluntarily use a digital ID to sign up for government services including MyGov, Centrelink, Medicare, and the Australian Tax Office.

However, the digital ID legislation is set to broaden this system for use by state and territory governments and eventually the private sector.

Explaining the legislation, the government said, “Digital ID is a major economy-wide reform with significant economic, security, and privacy benefits for individuals and businesses.”

“The bill will provide for the minister to make rules to regulate the accreditation of other kinds of services in the future to account for changes in technology and the way in which digital ID systems operate.

“For example, potential future roles could be providers of digitally verifiable credentials or Digital ID wallets.”

In late 2023, Minister Katy Gallagher said the “voluntary bill” was about reducing the amount of information being stored online for identity verification purposes.

“That information is currently being held in a number of places. Every time you have to prove your ID, where you provide information to different organisations—this is about reducing that. This is in response to Optus [cyber attack]. It’s in response to Medibank,” she said.

“The private sector wants it in place. They want it regulated. We have the system in place now, and we have private-sector ID providers who are unregulated. There’s no regulator.”

Concerns of Lack of Oversight

During a Senate debate, Nationals Senator Matt Canavan raised concerns that the legislation was too rushed.

“What the government is trying to do here is to rush this through without proper scrutiny, without Australians being able to understand what the government is doing with their data, with their security and with their privacy,” he said.

At the time, One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts proposed an amendment to extend the committee inquiry timeframe to May 14. However, this attempt was blocked by the Labor- and Greens-majority Senate.

Mr. Roberts said the effect of the bill would tie every Australian to a digital identity for life.

“This bill does not make identifying oneself online easier. It will facilitate making a digital identity check mandatory,” he said.

Corporations, Advocacy Groups Weigh In

Major supermarket giant Woolworths said it supported (pdf) the “acceleration of legislation to expand the scope of digital ID.”

“We are keen to offer Digital ID as an alternative verification option for our customers as soon as we can safely and securely do so,” Woolworths said in its submission.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with the Commonwealth on testing safe and secure API integrations to ensure they are simple and intuitive for organisations to adopt.”

However, Digital Rights Watch raised surveillance concerns in a submission (pdf) dated Jan. 18.

“Individuals ought to be able to voluntarily use a Digital ID without any concern that doing so may later be used to enable mass surveillance. Such concerns undermine public trust in these systems,” the advocacy group said.

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