The Federal Government is considering plans to extend its Document Verification Service to the private sector as an alternative to a national identification scheme.
The five-year-old service allows agencies to verify an individual’s identity by comparing provided information with federal and state registries for birth certificates, passports, visas and drivers licenses.
It has been available to state and federal governments for some time but was slammed in a 2010 audit for seeing very little use since its inception in 2007.
The Federal Government only last year completed access provisions for all states and territories, with Victoria and Western Australia the last to sign up.
Andrew Rice, assistant secretary at the federal Attorney-General’s identity security branch, said the Federal Government is now considering whether to provide the service to the private sector.
He said it would help private sector firms “develop an ability to verify identity documents”.
Initial targets include the financial services sector and telecommunications companies. Access to the database could provide an alternative to siloed systems which require specific points of identity for access to bank or mobile services to prevent money laundering or some forms of identity theft.
“We’re going to work with those pretty sizable, central business industry sectors in the first instance to look at whether document verification can assist industry with their identity-based assessment,” Rice said.
He said the service could ultimately be extended to smaller industries including “the Video Ezy on the corner” in time.
The verification service does not allow access by agencies or private companies to the databases themselves, but rather sends encrypted verification requests to the relevant document issuing authority, which returns either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to verify that person’s identity.
Rice indicated work was also underway to bring Medicare user databases into the fold as another point of reference for identity verification.
However, he noted private sector access is “still a decision for Government [that] we need to work through”.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s Department did not respond to requests for clarification at time of writing.
Despite the system’s dogged past, Rice said the department was “on the cusp of great things” for the service, which could include options for biometrics in the distant future.
“I think we’ve got to a point now where we’re really starting to see interest in the DVS take off across government,” he said.
The service also offers an alternative to a national identification scheme, which has been proposed several times over the last decade but never been offered as a policy decision from government.