Our digital and physical identities are converging: how can we maintain the privacy and freedom inherent in our paper-based credentials while reaping the benefits of a digital world? As we explore the evolution of identity verification, it’s crucial to address the pitfalls of current digital solutions, particularly the risk of inadvertently creating a surveillance state that could erode the trust we strive to build in our digital interactions. How do we navigate this digital transformation in a way that protects individuals’ rights and fosters a secure online environment? This question is at the heart of GoSource’s commitment to advancing digital trust through decentralised identity solutions.

Let’s ground this conversation in the tangible—consider a driver’s license. Issued by a regulatory body or government, this plastic card resides in your wallet, ready to be shown when needed, without the issuer’s surveillance. Yet, in the digital age, we’re at a crossroads between replicating this model or opting for a potentially invasive alternative.

The allure of a federated model is understandable. It’s a system we’re somewhat familiar with, like the “Sign-in with Google” convenience. However, the federated model centralises identity verification, effectively turning the government into a gatekeeper of your digital credentials. It’s akin to Google holding your digital life in their realm—with significant privacy and surveillance implications.

Imagine going to an RSL and instead of showing your physical license, you allow them to request your details from the licence issuer, digitally. You’ve just participated in a ‘surveillance handshake’—a transaction that’s logged, traceable, and not fully within your control.

On the other hand, a decentralised model puts you in the driver’s seat (pardon the pun!). The government still issues your digital licence, but you store it in your personal digital wallet. When you present it at the RSL, you’re in full control, sharing only what’s necessary, without leaving a digital trail back to the issuer. It’s privacy by design, not just by policy.

Decentralisation is also about pragmatism. The federated model is bureaucratically heavy and slow. Establishing a ‘relying party’ arrangement for each entity you might interact with is not only cumbersome but also impractical at scale. It’s hard enough to integrate new government agencies within a federated system, let alone thousands of RSLs and other organisations.

In stark contrast, decentralised models are already being adopted by leading governments worldwide. The EU’s digital wallet initiative, Canada’s digital ID framework, Singapore’s national digital identity system—these are all examples of decentralised models designed for privacy, scalability, and efficiency. They are the green balls in the digital identity pinball machine, bypassing the pink ball—that is, the surveillance model Australia must avoid becoming.

When Minister Gallagher asserts, “this is not another Australia card,” her intent is clear. Yet, if a federated model were to be pursued, her words would ring hollow, as the resultant system would embody the surveillance state that citizens oppose.

The misinformation risk is real. Proponents of a federated model like ConnectID may tout its benefits, emphasising revenue generation and controlled identity use. However, these ‘benefits’ come at the cost of privacy and freedom.

GoSource has champions a future where our citizens and businesses are empowered with sovereignty over their data. As a leader in digital trust consulting, we cannot stress enough the importance of choosing the right path forward. The decentralised identity model isn’t just about preventing fraud or enhancing privacy—it’s about upholding the freedoms and rights of Australians in the digital age.

As we continue to build capabilities, author white papers, and lead international projects, our focus remains on empowering businesses and individuals with secure, private, and scalable digital identity solutions.

For federal government and corporate leaders, the decision is not trivial—it’s foundational. At GoSource, we are dedicated to supporting you in navigating these choices, enhancing Australia’s digital landscape, and advancing the trust that is so vital in our interconnected world.