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The Australian National University

Digital Citizenship and the Right to Identity in Australia

Clare Sullivan (2013) 41 (3)

Australia has announced the need to review the distribution of responsibility among individuals, businesses and governments, as a consequence of the move to digital citizenship. Australia has formally framed the issues in these terms and has opened dialogue between government and citizens regarding responsibilities for the use and protection of digital identity. This article examines digital citizenship in Australia and considers the implications for individuals, government and the private sector of the requirement for an individual to use his/her digital identity for transactions. The features and functions of digital identity are examined, and the consequences for individuals, business and government of system failure are considered. The analysis shows that, while there are consequences for all, individuals are most affected. The author argues that the traditional approach of relying on privacy for protection is inadequate in these circumstances. Privacy, by its nature, cannot adequately protect the part of digital identity which is required for transactions. The argument presented is that, unlike privacy, the right to identity can protect the set of digital information required for transactions. Considering the new system is literally being imposed by government, the inherent vulnerabilities of the system, and the consequences of system failure for individuals, formal recognition of the right to identity is an essential element of accountable and responsible governance. Whilst in time the right to identity in this context may be recognised by the courts, the author argues that legislative recognition and protection of an individual's right to digital identity is needed now as a key component of the distribution of responsibility in this new digital era.

Vol 41, Issue 3, 2013

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