A Bill has been tabled in Parliament to enshrine NZ Post as the exclusive private-sector agency for New Zealanders to apply for an online identity credential.
The Electronic Identity Verification Bill will also allow third parties to be approved to conduct statistical analysis of the use of the identity service, but a record of a person’s individual use will not be released to analysts, says Nathan Guy, Minister of Internal Affairs, the agency controlling the online identifier programme, known as igovt.
Such a “usage history” must be kept for each user under the terms of the Bill, but is clearly sensitive information, since it might disclose, for example, frequent interaction with social welfare agencies.
“Clause 21(3) [of the Bill] states that, if information is released for statistical or research purposes, it must only be released in a form that protects individual privacy,” Guy says. “It also provides that information may be aggregated before it is released.”
No-one may opt out of having their data available for analysis, but their usage history will include a record of each such analysis.
No private organisation has yet expressed an interest in clearance to analyse igovt usage, he says.
Expansion of the igovt system to private organisations looks certain. Such organisations will be able to use the government credential to recognise their customers to a high standard of authenticity.
“At the same time as the [DIA] undertook the partnering arrangement, a separate private sector usage stream was undertaken,” says Guy. “Consultation with private sector organisations in that stream revealed significant interest from the private sector. The financial sector has been particularly interested in opportunities to improve customer identification processes."
The igovt service includes the government logon service, which allows New Zealand residents to use the same logon to access various government online services, and the Identity Verification Service (IVS), which will provide a credential by which a person can be securely identified to a government agency, for more general and ad hoc purposes, without having to carry around valuable identification such as a passport.
The logon service is currently provided by a small number of government agencies and the Auckland and Wellington City councils, but IVS is currently available only for records of births, deaths and marriages – a function of the DIA; users are predominantly genealogical researchers.
“The igovt IVS is currently in production and operational in a limited form. It will be in full service after the Electronic Identity Verification Bill is enacted,” Guy says.
“In the meantime, other government agencies have expressed interest in using the igovt IVS in its current form and we are looking to have at least one more service integrated by 2012. Discussions are also continuing with agencies that require full service and a number have either expressed interest or have roadmaps incorporating the igovt IVS.
“NZ Post will be the exclusive private sector partner offering igovt issuance support services,” Guy says. “The [DIA] will continue to provide issuance support through its offices (currently in Auckland, Manukau and Wellington). The department will retain responsibility for the issuance of igovt IDs.”