Is it time for a National Identity Card?

To many of us, talk of a National ID Card conjures up visions of an Orwellian totalitarian government; of a fear of being stopped in the street for routine checks by police; of problems arising with lost cards, and with threats to data security.

Our drivers licence is in many ways our de-facto identity card but it’s not considered enough evidence when applying for credit etc. and a plethora of other documents issued by government and commercial organisations is also needed and is added to our stored, private informations and therefore put at risk of being compromised or worse, as has been shown by the recent Optus debacle.

Would a national identity card make it easier to prove our identity by just one document? Would it be easier to flag and replace if compromised?

Is our distrust of governments not being able to hold data securely irrational, given that we are required to trust a Telco with 100 points of detailed, private, personal information if we wish to own a mobile phone?

Or would a national identity card create more problems than it solves?


There’s resistance from the Christian lobby because the Biblical “end times” prophecies (or the interpretation thereof) talks of an identity being a way that people will be tracked and controlled. An identity card, for them, is only a step before an indelible tattoo or microchip implant.

One card to prove your identity would be too good a target for scammers and thieves.

I was concerned with the amount of identity data required by companies for simple things. Now they have that data, and probably not very securely, its waiting for harvest. For example, I changed my name by marriage and a store loyalty card (you showed it to get a member’s only deal, no money accrued) required a certified copy of my marriage certificate . I volunteered and that organisation wanted my Drivers Licence, car rego, DOB, and a Police Check by a third party where I had to disclose a lot more data. I volunteered with Red Cross who had a data breach some time later and my email address, ended up on-sold and I now get lots of spam.


Given that both sides of the house have had a run at this and it was unpopular both times this doesn’t look like a realistic option to me from a political POV regardless of the possible technical merit or security problems.


We should not lose sight of the fundamental issue related to the leak of information from Optus.
They put this info onto the Internet, and allowed anyone with the knowhow to access it without any real security.

I can’t see how a single Government document to replace the use of multiple other documents used to reach a 100 points rule would work in practice.
Does every organization keep a record of the NIC to demonstrate compliance with laws?
Or is there a central database that every organization have to access to validate the NIC?


Would not ‘one card’ also be easier to make secure and to ascertain if it has been compromised and needs replacing? With the Optus breach there’s no certainty as to which ID has been compromised? And it’s now a nightmare to replace all?


The Labour Gov proposal to introduce a NID card was defeated in the 1980’s ( about 40 years ago). Further proposals, following the London bombing, were withdrawn (about 20 years ago).
Around this time I bought my little Nokia dumb mobile phone at a Telco shop inside the Myer store in Melbourne, and I only had my Myer card with me for identification! Things have changed so much since then, the younger generations might have new ideas and since governments follow popular opinions when proposing changes… who knows?


You have raised a very interesting topic.

I believe that a national identity card like that proposed in the past won’t solve many of the current issues associated with identity theft etc. I think Australia should adopt a electronic proof of identity system like that in Estonia…


I came across this system when travelling and also knowing some Estonians in Brisbane. The system is possibly more of a key used to prove one’s identity and quite robust. I needs to be robust because of its position in the world and being neighbours to Russia. Estonia is particularly vulnerable to attacks from its neighbours and having a robust system is essential to maintain secure and reliable services to their community.

About 5 or so years ago the Estonians we new in Brisbane has a government issued USB key which needed to be inserted in a connected device to allow any electronic transactions, such as banking, access to government services etc. The USB key verified identities and without it transactions weren’t possible. I took an interest in it as one of the purposes was to protect each citizens unique identity.

I understand that the technology may have moved on from a USB type key like most tech now days.

The Estonian system is also more than just identity, but the identity verification components could be a starting point for Australia.

To protect issues arising from privacy, its use could be restricted to approved businesses and organisations…and no information is shared other than validation of identity. It may require massive rethink (and cost) on how electronic transactions are performed, and the impact of its adoption would need to be assessed against the merits of such a system.

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That’s very interesting @phb. I can also see from the web the many new solutions offered by the technology nowdays. I think it’s time to move forward with the times and not cling to our old ideas and fears :wink:


Similar thoughts to others as to whether a just a card is a viable solution. We already have one in our Drivers License. But if it was that simple the 100 points system would not be required. Similarly many of us have a passport. Supposedly a far more secure and reliable document. It too is insufficient on it’s own and one still needs 100 points.

It may be relevant to consider what happens when entering and leaving Australia. For us Aussies the Government has a master ID data base for passport holders. It contains a set of reference details of each holder of a passport. It’s supposedly accurate, reliable and ensures a unique identification in every instance. In transiting in and out the passport unlocks access to the data base for our unique ID. The document must pass muster, but so must we. It used to be down to the person at the desk to check the document and photo against the holder. These days they also check the photo and person against the computer record image, in person and by biometrics.

This suggests

  1. We need an identity document that acts as a key. It cannot be relied upon without added verification.
  2. The key (Identity Card/Device) needs to be difficult to forge.
  3. There needs to be a way to secure the use of the key (card/device) to an individual. As far as is reasonable. A primary biometric or pass code or…?
  4. The key (card/device) needs to be used in conjunction with a secured data base that verifies the key is valid, and not a forgery.
  5. The data base also needs to confirm using several different methods that the holder of the key is the rightful owner.

There may be variations on how we look at the solution, and how it is structured. I’m open minded, but consider it is mor a system than simply issuing another card.

I’ve not mentioned including ones phone number, home address, email address etc with the ID. To me they are not about identity. They are transactional details that may or may not be relevant to the transaction at hand. if required they should be considered private and treated accordingly.

Should ones birthdate be included with your identity details. I’d rather not need to share that, unless it was necessary for a particular purpose.


Yes, I’ve heard that.
I’ve also heard an interesting explanation of the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:18) : taking its number on the forehead means thinking the same as it does, and the number on the right hand means actively working for the advancement of its ideals.
It’s much more than an ID card or a microchip, it’s a way of life which cannot be counterfeited as it could be easily checked (and those who don’t cooperate will be put to death).

Prophecies in the Book of Revelation are rather obscure and have a long history of misinterpretation :slightly_smiling_face:


And this is why I think eventually smething like this will come to be, not as a signal for biblical end of days, but rather as the way to finally stop ID theft in its tracks. I believe that the microchip solution is already in use in some places (but not as a government ID) or perhaps it was being tested. Can’t remember.


Will that also require legislating 100% uptime for all related and necessary networks and data systems?

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I’d put one response to that with the following.
Would an alternative require an ID card/chipped/device that is impossible to copy or forge or modify? One that not only provides the identity of the holder but uniquely identifies the holder only when in their hand. I wonder what technology might interpret the ID and decide it’s valid and in the rightful owners hands.


That would be ideal! It would mean that a Medicare card would be a card needed for medical care, a passport only for travelling, DL for driving…and not to make up 100 points of ID to get a mobile phone!! :laughing:


The Estonian appear to have solved that problem. Their system is decentralized design (using blockchain) which denies a single point of attack by hackers or loss of functionality.This has been done to protect it from cyber attacks from external forces. I suppose it is possible its functionality could be lost, but if it did occur it would mean far more than ID system loss (such as full loss of power and communications). In such case loss of ID systems may be the least of their worries.


100: Decentralisation requires will as well as expertise. In recent years rather than decentralisation I have seen more state responsibilities concentrated in the state capitals, and at federal more to Canberra, save for a few politically tainted and otherwise questionable actions.

Is the NBN project an example of the standard to which we should aspire? Or is it more likely the standard to which we have become accustomed? GOTO ‘100’ :wink:

Perhaps bringing them in and removing our politicians could get ‘us’ over the hurdles?


It would create a single point of failure.

You can easily see from the Optus incident that the fact that Optus leaks my drivers licence number and my drivers licence number is used for a number of purposes unrelated to telecommunications … means that the leak at Optus has the potential to spill over from telecommunications to any number of other things. So a bad leak becomes a worse leak.

In some respects your passport is a more fitting de facto national identity card. It also has superior security features as the chip within the passport basically prevents forgery or alteration (except by governments themselves - which is a genuine problem).

Distrust of governments is rational, never mind about whether they can hold data securely. :wink:


Estonia. It”s an interesting point of reference, being smaller than Tasmania, with a population several times greater. Independent of Russian autocracy since 1991, their democracy appears to function in a way more streamlined than the traditions of Westminster.

Whether their broadband is any better than ours?
There must also be times when those needing ID for financial or similar purposes have to wait for service to resume? ‘Broadband in Estonia | Shaping Europe’s digital future

What exactly the Estonian vision of digital freedom delivers, there are many visions. One does not need to be Estonian to join in.


Estonia offers virtual residency to all. No need for Australia to do anything. If you like the Estonian system, you can sign up for yourself. :wink: