The Federal government calls it a ‘Human Services Access Card’

We call it for what it is: a National ID Card System

Frequently Asked Question No. 7

What does the Victorian Privacy Commissioner say about it?

Submission re the first Access Card Bill – January 2007

The Victorian Privacy Commissioner’s Submission is emphatically against the scheme, and is very much along the same lines as the APF’s own Submission. In summary:

“The proposed Commonwealth Access Card and Register will result in a national database of most Australian citizens, residents and some overseas visitors

“The card and the register will contain significant amounts of personal information.

“The case is yet to be made for the necessity for creating this database.

“The privacy risks are substantial.

“Such a database, together with a unique national identifier of each Australian resident, creates the potential for uses by government far beyond those claimed.

“This may undermine public trust and willingness to participate in the scheme.

“In the wrong hands, the consequences to individuals’ personal privacy, and in some cases safety, will be enormous.

“The exposure draft legislation gives little comfort that the risks are understood and likely to be addressed.

“The haste with which the legislation is being prepared and introduced gives little chance for effective consultation and debate“.

On 14 May 2006, the then Victorian Privacy Commissioner issued a Media Release, which contained the following ‘Smartcard Privacy Checklist’ of “20 questions for the public to ask persistently and for governments to answer satisfactorily about a government-issued smartcard that most Australians would need to have”:

The information

1. What information about me will be on my card?

  • what will be visible on the card?
  • what will be on the microchip?

2. What information about me will be on the supporting databases or linked to them?

3. What information will be compulsorily on the card and databases?

4. What information will be there only if I choose?

5. Who will decide what other information will be gradually added over time –

  • me, by choice?
  • Parliament, by passing specific legislation each time?
  • Ministers/public servants, by using general powers?

The purposes

6. Who will have access to the information about me on my card or in the databases?

  • which parts of government?
  • which businesses?

7. What will they be allowed to do with my information?

  • eg will the photo collection be made available to police or any other authorities?
  • eg any medical research, taxation or border control activities?

8. What will they be prohibited from doing?

  • eg demand my card before I can vote?
  • eg link my data to the data about my relatives or associates?
  • eg connect the smartcard scheme with Census data in any way?

9. Will the unique number on my card be allowed to be used to match my information with other information about me held by the federal government, state/territory/local government, or private organisations?

10. If so, by whom and for what purposes?

The safeguards

11. How will they know that the information they already hold about me is accurate to start with?

12. How will they keep information about me accurate?

13. How will they keep information about me secure?

14. Will I have the right to see and correct my information?

15. If something goes wrong and my personal information is at risk, will I be notified so that I can take steps to protect myself?

16. If my card is lost or stolen, how will I still be able to deal with government while the card is being replaced?

17. On what grounds could they withdraw or cancel my card against my will?

18. Who will independently oversee the smartcard scheme?

19. What powers and resources will the oversight body have and how can Parliament ensure its independence?

20. How often will the smartcard scheme and the oversight body be periodically and openly reviewed by Parliament to help ensure that I can trust government to collect and handle my personal information according to adequate standards?

* Paul Chadwick completed his term as Victorian Privacy Commissioner in July 2006

Unfortunately, the Victorian Government didn’t act to replace him before his term expired. The APF understand that the process is under way, but an appointment is yet to be made.

The Deputy, Helen Versey, continues as Acting Privacy Commissioner.

This is a standard tactic by Governments. The Commonwealth has delayed appointments and re-appointments in the past. And the NSW Government has been using the approach in a quite vicious manner, for almost 4 years. It robs the Office of momentum, and of the most senior executive in a quite small team.

This alone should set alarm bells ringing with citizens about how much they can afford to trust Governments. It’s almost as if they’ve got something to hide …

If you are aware of errors or omissions in this document, please let us know.

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