Identity and responsibility: Digital footprints and identities research—Short report 3 [pdf and Word] ooks at the role of government in protecting personal information. It is drawn from the findings of the Digital footprints and identities research, which aimed to understand how Australians act and react to the challenges of digital identity when they are online.
Taking protective action
Australians trust government with their digital identity information but they are sensitive to unnecessary requests for information.
Their response is a range of protective strategies, including withholding information or deliberately providing inaccurate information.
They want reasonable control over how their information is shared and need clear and easy-to-understand information about how their data is stored and used, including how it is used by government.
Their views about the role of government in protecting personal information are broad. While some realised that the nature of the internet sharply limited the potential effectiveness of nationally based regulatory schemes, others wanted and expected support from government, particularly in standards-setting and public education.
Over 80 per cent wanted government to take a role in protecting online users’ personal information, with half wanting government to enact and actively enforce legislation.
Sharing responsibility for protecting information
While Australians recognise that there is a clear role for government in protecting personal data, most see primary responsibility resting equally with individual users, service providers and government.
When considered with the high level of support for an active government role in protecting personal information from misuse, these results suggest that Australians see a strong role for government. However, government is just one part of the picture, with individuals and service providers also expected to take responsibility.
As far as complaining about misuse of personal information online is concerned, there was no clearly identified channel for making complaints beyond complaining to the service provider.
Modelling best practice
There is an opportunity for government to model best practice and ‘set the bar’ for service providers in maintaining the trust of users.
Australians support government in setting standards and providing a means to resolve issues. However, they see current responsibilities distributed across a number of regulatory bodies and levels of government, all of which have legitimate interests in maintaining the effectiveness of the safeguards they administer.
From a whole-of-economy perspective, the increasing scale and breadth of citizens’ online interactions support increased attention to digital identity management.
Major economies such as the United Kingdom, the United States and New Zealand have seen new forms of trusted identity verification emerge, with government either taking the lead in establishing identity products or coordinating with industry in the adoption of a common approach. However, there has been limited progress in Australia on developing trusted identity measures. Establishing common protocols for handling identity information that are understood by consumers, providers and government will generate economies of scale through increased acceptance and interoperability. This will support innovation and competition and enhance Australia’s ability to be a leader in the development of the global digital economy. There may be substantial benefit in formulating a coherent national framework within which trusted identity products and services can be developed.
A coherent regulatory framework for managing digital identity and personal online security will need to ensure there are adequate processes to deal with complaints and concerns. These processes will need to be widely known and understood by digital citizens and industry operators.