Australia crawls towards its answer to identity fraud

The Australian Government's electronic answer to the nation's $1 billion identity theft problem #8212; the Document Verification Service (DVS) #8212; has processed 200,000 verifications, according to the Attorney General's Department (AGD).

A "wide range of" state, territory and Commonwealth agencies have made "commitments to adopting" the DVS, which was meant to be connected to all authorised identity issuer and user agencies by June 2008.

DVS itself relies on a central hub that connects document issuing agencies to user agencies. The user agency is meant to be able to confirm whether documents presented to staff are accurate and legitimate.

The platform had cost $25 million by last year and was meant to tackle the variable quality and accuracy of systems used to generate identity documents that make up Australia's '100 points' system.

“The national implementation of the DVS will help Australians keep their personal information secure as they conduct their everyday business with government.” Attorney General Robert McClelland said.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) slammed the program's sluggish roll out last April (PDF), noting that the "rarely used" system was unlikely to strengthen Australia's personal identification process in the near future.

The main problem was that many of the identity issuer and user agencies, such as Centrelink, the Department of Immigration, and state road authorities and birth and death registries, were not connected to DVS. Verification using the system also took longer than 20 seconds in a quarter of transactions, eroding its promised efficiency gains and convenience.

Kicked off in 2005-2006, DVS is administered by the AGD which, according to the ANAO report, poorly managed what had become in 2010 a $25 million project that was 18 months behind schedule.

In the 2008-09 period there were an estimated 57 million key identity documents in Australia, including passports (9.9 million), birth certificates (15 million), Department of Immigration documents (4 million), driver's licenses (15.6 million) and Medicare cards (12 million).

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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