Are the popular digital licences the answer to protecting your identity?

The recent spate of cyber incidents is – rightly – generating angst amongst Australians. These companies collect and store some of our most private information, from drivers licence details, to medical records. Governments and the private sector alike are scrambling for ways forward. Can the adoption of digital licences be the answer we’ve been looking for?

How have the recent attacks affected Australians?

We’ve seen attacks on large corporations, like Optus and Medibank. These breaches have affected millions of Aussies, and have put enormous pressure on business security measures. In the wake of the Optus attack, about half of all Aussies had their data compromised, including 600,000 Queenslanders, leading to a flurry of requests for replacement IDs.

The demand for new drivers licences led to Queensland Transport and Main Roads branches experiencing their busiest period on record, with over 85,000 replacement requests processed. Once Queensland implements digital licensing across the state, personal identity data will be better protected. The Queensland Government has identified that a Digital Licence App is a more secure and efficient means of proving your identity than the legacy alternative.

The traditional drivers licence was introduced in 1910, and while there have been many upgrades since then, moving to a digital licence was the obvious next step. With this in mind, other jurisdictions are also adopting Digital licensing including The NSW Government. 

What is the landscape of digital licences in Australia?

NSW’s move to digital has been lauded as the reason why only 16,000 residents applied for new licences after the Optus breach, compared to 1.2 million in Queensland and Victoria. Software development agency Code Heroes is working to deliver the QLD Digital Licence App in collaboration with the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Thales and Aliva.

Digital licensing offers a more secure and efficient means of proving your identity than the legacy alternative. Compared to traditional identity verification methods, the digital licence provides far superior levels of personal data privacy. It’s also a safer way to validate your identity with organisations to meet regulated identification monitoring requirements.

Digital Licences are gaining momentum

Jurisdictions are moving towards digital licences at record pace. It doesn’t take an expert to recognise we’ve entered an era in which mobile usage and connectivity dominate – a trend which shows no sign of abating. And the benefits of digital licences are profound.  

Digital licences provide an easy way for people to verify their identity. Their credentials are accessible in the palm of their hand and the replacement process, if required, can be streamlined. Moving to a digital model makes it harder for personal information to reach the wrong hands, with inbuilt mobile security like FaceID acting as a second layer of protection.

Digital Licences are protecting your privacy

Holding a digital licence reduces the need to provide multiple identity documents – that can be easily copied – to third parties. A move to a centralised digital system means you no longer need to leave behind a paper trail of private information just to access the services you need.

Talks are underway about strengthening the national digital identity system, with federal and state ministers working on an approach to ‘support the implementation of more resilient identities’ and ‘continue developing digital identity systems’. Authorities are looking at what has worked in countries, like Estonia, where digital IDs have been commonplace for decades.

No system is perfect, but it’s becoming clearer that a move to digital licensing is the way forward. As technology and cybercriminals both become more advanced, it’s time to find new ways to protect identities against the increasing dangers of those who want to exploit them.

Julianna Burgess is the Communications Director at Seven Communications, bringing over a decade of media and government experience. Julianna has extensive experience working at the highest levels of government and private industry. Julianna has worked as a media adviser to several government ministers and in government departments, as well as a consultant to a number of startups and SMEs, predominantly in the technology and cyber security space.