Smart Cards and RFID
Last Updated: 15 Aug 2006
This section contains information about Australian governments' proposals to introduce smart cards and/or RFID technology for identification purposes, some of which include proposals for identifying individuals online and/or facilitating access via the Internet to personal information in government databases.
At Federal Government level there are a growing number of proposals to introduce smart cards for identification and other purposes.
EFA has grave concerns about privacy and security in relation to such proposals and considers the roll out of smart cards by government has an extremely high potential to result in the equivalent of an Australia Card, whether or not that is the government's intention at the outset. This potential arises from a combination of factors including the ease with which smart cards can be used for two-way communication with a centralised database and that smart card technology is designed to facilitate function creep. See "Smart Card technology and the potential for use to establish a national identification regime" in Section 4.3 of EFA's submission to the Inquiry into the Privacy Act 1988 conducted by the Senate Legal & Constitutional References Committee, 24 February 2005.
Most recently, on 26 April 2006, the Prime Minister announced that the "Australian Government has decided to proceed in principle with a new access card for health and welfare services". To date, very little detail has been made publicly available on the government's specific plan. However, all indications are that it is, in effect, an Australia Card Mark II.
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The Queensland Government announced a proposal to introduce a Smart Card Driver Licence in late 2003. Among many other things, the government proposed that the licence incorporate a means of identifying individuals online.
As at December 2005, the Government had re-announced their Smart Card Driver Licence plan five times (the Courier Mail reported the fifth re-announcement on 30 December 2005). However, no new information or detail about the proposed implementation has been made publicly available.
EFA has major concerns about several proposed expanded purposes and uses of driver licences and sent a comprehensive submission to the Qld Government addressing technical, security and privacy issues and risks inherent in their proposal. See EFA's Submission about the Queensland Smart Card Driver Licence proposal, 21 Nov 2003.
RFID Position Statement of Consumer Privacy and Civil Liberties Organizations
In November 2003, a group of organizations and individuals committed to the protection of privacy and civil liberties issued a statement on the deployment of RFID in the consumer environment. EFA is a signatory to the position statement. As stated therein, "Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is an item-tagging technology with profound societal implications. Used improperly, RFID has the potential to jeopardize consumer privacy, reduce or eliminate purchasing anonymity, and threaten civil liberties." See RFID Position Statement of Consumer Privacy and Civil Liberties Organizations, 20 Nov 2003.