60,000 Sign Petition to Scrap National Digital ID

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‘History has shown that the aggregation of personal information can lead to targeted misuse, both by state and non-state actors.’

A petition calling for the repeal of the Australian federal government’s Digital ID legislation has gathered over 60,000 signatures amidst growing concerns that the act would undermine civil liberties and pave the way for an intrusive surveillance framework.

The digital ID bill, introduced by the centre-left Labor government, sought to establish a centralised platform for Australians to verify their digital identity by collecting sensitive personal details into a single digital system.

While the government said the digital ID is a “major economy-wide reform” that would reduce the amount of information being stored online for identity verification purposes, critics have voiced concerns about the potential governmental and corporate overreach.

A petition titled introduced by the One Nation party said the legislation “lacks precise limitations on the powers it grants.”

“The provision for a government agency to mandate digital ID for accessing certain services, under vaguely defined conditions, opens avenues for misuse, and infringes on personal freedoms and privacy,” the petition said.

By 9 a.m. on April 21, over 61,484 people had signed the petition.

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Minister Katy Gallagher previously claimed that the bill was made in response to the string of cyber attacks against big companies such as Optus and Medibank.

“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,” she said in late 2023.

However, One Nation argued that storing Australians’ personal data within a digital ID system would “significantly increase the risk of cybersecurity threats, data breaches, and unauthorised surveillance.”

“History has shown that the aggregation of personal information can lead to targeted misuse, both by state and non-state actors.”

The government assured that digital ID would be “voluntary” but it was later revealed that the bill could potentially mandate digital ID for access to essential services.

This “threatens to undermine civil liberties, discriminate against those lacking digital literacy, and pave the way for an intrusive surveillance apparatus,” the petition said.

One Nation also described the process through which the bill was introduced and expedited as “deeply concerning,” with a limited period for public submissions, and a lack of debate in parliament which diminished public engagement and oversight.

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.

Meanwhile, National Australia Bank (NAB) has revealed in a survey that 46 percent of Australians were ready to sign up for the program.

The bank said its research showed 14 percent of Australians were “very likely” to sign up to a digital ID, with a further 32 percent saying they were “likely” to do so.

However, 38 percent of Australians said they were undecided, 8 percent were very unlikely to join, and 7 percent were unlikely to sign up.

Monica O’Shea contributed to this report.

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