Government smartcard stores shopping lists, MP3s

Users to own one-third of storage capacity

Human Services Minister Joe Hockey has stated Australians could pick and choose whatever personal information they want on the proposed smartcard, so long as the government retains two-thirds of the storage capacity.

In a National Press Club address yesterday Hockey stated one-third of the capacity on the chip will be offered to Australians to store whatever information they like. Hockey stated consumers could even choose to store shopping lists on the smartcard.

Hockey also outlined the Access Card and Consumer Privacy Taskforce, chaired by Professor Allan Fels, would accept submissions concerning the proposal over the next month.

Hockey confirmed the government would buy off-the-shelf technology as infrastructure for the smartcard and the procurement process will be explained to interested parties by the end of the year.

"We are creating a customer controlled area in the chip where individuals can store the information they want," Hockey said.

"In simple terms it makes the access card similar to a mini iPod, where you can download minimum amounts of information onto the microchip and carry it around in your wallet or purse.

"Our proposed legislation will prevent the card being required by a bank or other organization as the only allowable form of identification. People may, however, choose to use the access card to assist in proof of identity at those locations."

Hockey also stated the private sector could play a role in storing information that Australians may choose to link to their access card because "that is not the sort of information the government wants to hold".

David Vaile, executive director of the UNSW Cyberspace Law and Policy centre, said the announcement is more than misleading flack design to conceal what is happening in the background rather than reveal the workings to the general public.

Vaile said offering consumer "ownership" of the card is a master stroke of publicity.

"What they (the government) are doing is creating a virtual networked database in the background which is complicated to the general public but links together all the sensitive information the government, and other organizations, would want to collect," Vaile said.

"The other thing going on is the apparent merger of the smartcard infrastructure with existing banking systems. The banks have not yet generated a business case for smartcard use and maybe they are getting government subsidies for what would otherwise be a core government owned, highly sensitive and secure network.

"If you link all the dots together Australian banks are already fast and loose with their interpretations of privacy and information security."

Hockey announced Request for Tenders (RFT) for card suppliers will be announced soon. A systems integrator will also be needed to install hardware and software for the card customer system and card operation system. The government will also need several thousand digital cameras, printers and scanners. Hardware, software and services will be procured in four stages, with industry briefed on procurement processes by the end of this year.

Hockey said more than 30,000 cards will be issued between 2008 and 2010.

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