Last October, the government proposed adding photos from state drivers licences to a national database, to help identify terrorism suspects.
The states all agreed to provide the photos, despite criticism from privacy defenders, who argued that uncertain data security puts the privacy of citizens at risk. Examples in recent years include the hacking of Yahoo and dating site Ashley Madison, and the Cambridge Analytica use of Facebook data.
At the time, David Vaile of the Australian privacy foundation described the move as “an unnecessary and disproportionate invasion of the privacy rights of all Australians”, and “incompatible with a free and open society”.
As part of a new trial of biometric security measures, now people receiving welfare payments will also be asked to have their faces scanned to claim their benefits.
Applicants will take a photo on a computer or phone to create a MyGov ID. The photo will then be checked against passports and driver’s licences. The system will affect people trying access Medicare and childcare subsidies, age pension and pay tax online.
Human Services Minister Michael Keenan hopes the plan will see Australia become a world leader in “digital government” by 2025. Mr Keenan agreed that the possible misuse of data was a concern for many Australians. However, the information used to create the MyGov ID will be deleted as soon as it is checked.
The trial will begin in October, and will include an all online way to get a tax file number. Next year Centrelink services, including Newstart and Youth Allowance, will also be trialled.