Victoria and Western Australia have become the latest Australian states to sign on to the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) Document Verification Service (DVS), Attorney-General Robert McClelland has announced.
The DVS provides a secure, electronic, on-line system which verifies proof of identity documents presented by a person applying for a high value benefit or service, and has already been adopted by a number of State, Territory and Commonwealth Government agencies, including the NSW Government.
The $24.8 million system will significantly improve the protection of people’s identification by allowing commonly used proof- of-identity documents to be quickly and electronically cross-checked, Mr. McClelland said in a post on his website.
For example, an Australian passport used as proof-of-identity to apply for a NSW Driver’s Licence at the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is able to be instantly verified for authenticity by the Australian Passport Office to ensure the passport has not been falsified or cancelled.
“A number of State and Territory and Commonwealth Government agencies are already using the system. It’s already possible to verify the validity of Australian-issued passports, visas, and birth certificates and driver licences from other State and Territories through the DVS,” Mr. McClelland said.
According to the Attorney-General’s Department website, a key feature of the DVS is that it does not store personal information. Rather, requests for authentication of an identity document are encrypted and sent via a secure communications pathway to the document issuing agency, with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response returned to the querying agency.
The DVS is part of the broader National Identity Security Strategy (NISS), which was formulated after a special COAG meeting on counter terrorism in September 2005. The Strategy aims to combat the misuse of stolen identities in the provision of government services through a cross-jurisdictional, whole-of-government approach, meaning the joint participation of State and Federal agencies is crucial to its success.
While the DVS has been heralded as a key improvement in protecting people’s identity by Mr. McClelland, its implementation was heavily criticised by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) in April 2010.
ANAO noted that the uptake of DVS had been slow, with less than ten reported transactions per day for a system capable of handling over one million transactions and, while the majority of transactions were conducted in less than 20 seconds, approximately a quarter were significantly slower.
Additionally, ANAO criticised the inaccuracy of the DVS system, with 38 percent of all responses categorised as false negatives or error responses as a result of user and data errors.
The development of the DVS was a thoroughly cooperative effort.
“The ICT infrastructure for the Document Verification System was developed by a range of Commonwealth and State and Territory Government agencies.
“The Commonwealth components were developed by The Department of Human Services, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship under their existing ICT arrangements,” said a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Department.
“The DVS also utilises existing State and Territory verification services that existed prior to the DVS,” she said.