Law to guard against abuse of igovt ID system likely

Legislation 'prudent' to clarify acceptable uses of government ID system

New laws will likely be needed to protect people’s privacy and punish those abusing ID credentials now that igovt, the new government online identity service, has been introduced.

Speaking at the conference launching igovt, held in Wellington last week, State Services Minister David Parker said the service’s introduction necessitated new laws and independent oversight — but he said so only in passing.

When Computerworld asked for further details there was an awkward silence while Parker shuffled through his speech-notes, seemingly having to refresh his memory about what he had just said.

Sue Boland, who is now with the Department of Labour but who helped develop igovt in her previous Internal Affairs’ role came to the rescue.

She said it was “not essential to introduce new legislation but it is prudent.”

Speaking from the body of auditorium, she said that any new law would “state the purpose of igovt very clearly”, so no-one would be in doubt about what constitutes proper or improper use of the service.

The law would also make it quite clear what would constitute a breach of privacy when it came to use of igovt identity credentials, Bolland told the audience at the Managing Identity in New Zealand conference.

Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff, who addressed the conference after the minister, made it clear that at least some of the legal push had come from her direction.

“I have been promoting the need for legislation and independent oversight,” she said.

An oversight committee would likely to involve herself as well as a Human Rights Commission representative.

The igovt service provides people with their own centralised ID credentials that they can present electronically when dealing with government agencies. This means that only that personal information strictly necessary at the time need be given out.

Parker used the example of a student loan application, which involves the applicant getting information from Inland Revenue, Internal Affairs, the Labour Department and their educational institution.

Currently, students have to gather this paperwork manually, despite it being held by government agencies, collate it and then present it to Studylink, another government agency. Using igovt, students could electronically give the various agencies permission to communicate all this information directly to Studylink.

Electronic ID credentials can be issued to people once they have presented evidence of their identity based on existing official documents such as a passport. People can also choose to have two or more separate IDs for use with different agencies should they fears agencies correlating information about them – although linking-up the different IDs will still be possible if illegal activity is suspected.

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Tags Security IDigovtivsidsue bollandidentity verification systemdavid parker

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