‘Big Brother’ barrier to govt ID scheme

Security and privacy concerns slow down adoption of the Identity Verification Service

A lack of trust both in government and internet security has been identified as a barrier to the adoption of the Department of Internal Affairs’ proposed Identity Verification Service (IVS).

A report commissioned by the department identifies concerns about the “growing intrusion of government into people’s lives and the loss of privacy protections by citizens (that is, ‘Big Brother’)”, as one of four barriers to adoption of a planned voluntary token-based online verification system to be used to access government services online.

“Key in this domain is that the level of trust in government varies across individuals and that this will act in various degrees as a barrier to IVS uptake,” says the report, prepared by Gravitas Research and Strategy.

The report also identifies internet security concerns as a barrier, saying people need to feel that “IVS is a secure process, particularly in respect of the registration process, when identity is originally confirmed.”

Hewlett-Packard and Datacom have just won contracts to prepare detailed costings for the development and operation of an IVS scheme.

Department of Internal Affairs communications advisor Tony Wallace says the report, delivered in October, was prepared very early in the design phase of the project and is largely based on even earlier high-level design.

When it comes to security, however, some potential users could be their own worst enemies. Alarmingly, the report says that 10% of the adult population — or 14% of internet users — said it was likely they would share their user information with another person.

“Focus groups revealed that people were most likely to share information with their intimate partner, with this often reflecting the couple’s respective tasks and responsibilities in the relationship,” the report says.

“The extent to which the risk of sharing might be mitigated through effective marketing is unknown. The findings suggest, however, that without explicit cautions, potential users of the service may underestimate the risks of sharing information.”

Wallace says the IVS scheme will be an all-of-government shared service that will provide individuals with the option to verify their identity online, and in real-time, to a government agency in order to receive services.

The reports says that 8% of internet users can be expected to adopt IVS immediately and a further 21% can be expected to sign up for their first government transaction after the service is launched.

A further 36%, dubbed “contemplators”, would wait and see, while a 17% core, or “pre-contemplators”, might never sign up at all.

The scheme is being developed in the context of the State Services Commission-led all-of-government authentication programme. The two components of the authentication service will be provided by the Government Logon Service (GLS) and the Identity Verification Service (IVS).

Wallace says detailed design is expected to be completed around the middle of the year, at which point the department will conduct a further privacy assessment.

Subject to funding approval, he says, a pilot will be conducted in either 2008 or 2009, with a limited service being on offer by 2009 or 2010.

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Tags governmentprivacyIdentitybig brotherdiaverification system

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