Stories by Julian Bajkowski

Smartcard licence SLIPs into gear

Australian states have finally struck an agreement that sets a nationwide standard for smartcard-based drivers' licences, but Queensland appears to be the only state that has so far committed to rolling out the controversial technology.
Dubbed the Smartcard Licence Interoperability Protocol (SLIP), the standards agreement aims to ultimately give all Australian traffic and law enforcement authorities access to driver information, including whether a licence has been suspended, regardless of where a motorist is pulled over.
Police and transport authorities have long argued that a national licence-checking system is needed to clamp down on identity fraud and suspended or banned drivers obtaining new credentials from other states because state motor registry computer systems cannot cross-check licence information.
Announced by Federal infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese on Friday, the new SLIP framework is based on Queensland's smartcard drivers' licence, which has been under development for the last five years and is due to be delivered into the hands of motorists in 2010.
The chip-based licences make it much cheaper and easier for drivers to update and change their personal details because there is no need for a new document to be issued.
But they have also created a dilemma for businesses that have relied on licences to check both a person's identity and their address.
Under the Queensland scheme, a driver's residential address will no longer be printed on the surface of the new smartcard licences, a step that the state government has argued is necessary to protect the privacy of individuals from the likes of nightclub bouncers who often take electronic scans of the documents.
Banks and utilities normally demand proof of current address as part of the 100-point identity check from customers before they allow a new account to be opened.
Financial institutions had previously sought to be able to read some chip-held data on both the recently dumped federal welfare smartcard and new electronic passports, including the ability to access and display the digital image of the document holder held on a chip.
Most electronic identity documents, including Australian passports, now use some form digital photograph combined with a biometric algorithm which generates a signature out of a person's unique facial characteristics.
Such technology potentially allows police and other authorities to cross check thousands of photographs simultaneously to help determine if multiple documents have been issued to the same person under different names.
But the technology has also attracted criticism from civil liberties groups, which are worried it could be abused by authorities to keep tabs people such as demonstrators by matching surveillance footage with photographic registries.
Some transport authorities are not waiting for smartcard licences before deploying biometric facial matching technology to their photo registries.
Last month the NSW Roads and Transport Authority issued tenders for a new biometric facial recognition system to help it weed out identity thieves as part of a document security crackdown.
— Australian Financial Review
NZ Police roll out facial recognition technology

Australian Symantec execs depart

Symantec’s Australian operation has been hit by the sudden exit of its two most senior executives, Pacific region vice president David Sykes and Asia-Pacific and Japan vice president for channels John Donovan.

'Name-and-shame' disclosure could backfire

Australian federal privacy commissioner Karen Curtis is warning that calls for Australian companies to be subject to a compulsory name-and-shame data breach regime could backfire and create a compliance nightmare.

Vista licensing move pushes NSW governmental shift to Linux

The NSW Office of State Revenue (OSR) is taking a tough stance against Microsoft’s decision to make the enterprise edition of Windows Vista only available to companies that have signed on to its Software Assurance programme. The tax collection agency has declared it would rather switch desktop operating systems than lock itself into Microsoft’s licensing regime.

EDS cuts staff in Australia

Multinational outsourcer EDS has retrenched 106 applications development staff from its Australian operation, however the company is vehemently denying the redundancies are payback for failed wage negotiations late last month.

More Telstra splits emerge in coalition

Damaging new rifts have appeared in coalition ranks less than 24 hours after Cabinet approved the full sale of Telstra, with Liberal back bencher Alby Schultz now refusing to support the full float of the telco.

Australian IT visa data ignites controversy

Australian Department of Immigration Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) records show that IT workers from India currently account for almost half of all temporary, skilled ICT visas issued for entry to Australia for 2004-05 — more than double the number of visas issued to the next country down the list, the UK.

Results see key Telstra staff jettisoned

On what must be the busiest day on record for Telstra Corp. Ltd.'s management, the telco posted a bumper profit, appointed a new chief operations officer, jettisoned its technology chief and presented its new CEO, Sol Trujillo, to the Prime Minister for a verbal beating over his anti-rural outbursts.
Telstra's net profit swelled a record A$4.45 billion (US$3.4 billion) for 2004/05, modestly beating market expectations. However, fixed line revenue continued to erode as customers continue to migrate to mobile services which are coming under sustained margins pressure.

Australia mulls fingerprint scans of welfare recipients

The Australian Federal government may soon implement fingerprint scans for clients of social security agency Centrelink, with two federal ministers so far refusing to rule out the proposition.
Centrelink currently has 6.5 million clients on various forms of pensions, family allowances, sickness, unemployment and study benefits.

Australian minister rules out Telstra break-up

Australian communications minister Senator Helen Coonan has ruled out the break-up and individual sale of Telstra's different business divisions as part of the government's forthcoming sale of the telecommunications carrier.
Addressing the Australian Telecommunications Users Group annual conference earlier Wednesday, Coonan said advocates of "structural separation" -- or selling off Telstra's mobile, telephony, Internet, infrastructure and directories business -- had failed to prove their economic case and risked sending regional telecommunications back to "the dark ages".

Telstra CIO quits, IT operations under review

Telstra CIO Jeff Smith, the man who brought offshoring IT into the Australian vernacular, has quit his post amidst market rumours of wholesale lay-offs to come prior to the federal government's May Budget.