You will soon need to upload a photograph of yourself to the MyGov website before you are able to collect your Age Pension, after it was announced that Centrelink is introducing facial recognition technology in a bid to deter fraudsters.
The new system will require welfare recipients, including those in receipt of the age pension, disability pension and rent assistance, to take a photo of themselves using a camera or mobile phone and upload it to the government site.
It will then be compared to an official form of ID, such as a passport or driver’s licence, to confirm the claimant’s identity and allow the user to access their online account in order to claim their benefits. Government officials also hope it will make it harder for anyone attempting to fraudulently claim benefits to do so.
Minister for Human Services Michael Keenan said: “As a nation, we are already a long way down the road toward becoming a truly digital government and we should be proud of what we have achieved so far.
“We are already three years into a seven-year program to digitally transform the welfare payment system which will eventually enable all benefit types to be claimed and processed online. The advantages of achieving this goal are enormous.
“Digitisation will also deliver significant cost savings for Government. At present, a traditional over the counter transaction such as registering a business name costs taxpayers $17 to process on average. By enabling transactions to be conducted entirely online, the cost of processing can drop to as little as about 40 cents.
“The key to ensuring online transactions are conducted securely is the development of a trusted digital identity solution. Think of it as a 100-point digital ID check that will unlock access to almost any government agency through a single portal such as a myGov account.”
When Centrelink launch the facial recognition process next year it will not be compulsory for all users, however those who decide against using it will be required to visit their local Centrelink office to receive their payments.
It will follow with the launch of a Job Seeker app, which will inform users whether they are meeting obligations to claim payments by using a green light to show compliance, an amber light to show demerit points, and a red light to show penalties.
“The new framework is fairer because it recognises that the majority of job seekers do the right thing and should therefore not receive financial penalties,” Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash told the Daily Mail.
The announcement has also raised concerns over the safety of the system, with people worrying about the security of their data and how it will be stored, following recent data breaches such as the Cambridge Analytica incident earlier this year. However Keenan stressed that “privacy and security” will be “the heart of the changes”.
Keenan added that he wants Australia to be viewed as “one of the top three countries in the world for digital government” by 2025 and said that the biometric security features will be trialled for the MyGov website from October, with Centrelink following suit in 2019.
Centrelink has been slammed recently for its automated services, with a recent study by Anglicare revealing that the service provider is failing those most in need of assistance, as clients are directed towards automated phone lines or online resources, rather than being offered face-to-face support.
Kasy Chambers, from Anglicare Australia, said: “Our research found that people are falling through the cracks as Centrelink services become more and more automated. It is becoming harder to talk to a human being. Staff in Centrelink service centres now direct people to phones and computers, rather than offering help. At the same time, people report spending hours waiting on the phone only to get cut off. And Centrelink’s online system can malfunction and is difficult to use.
“Centrelink might believe that it’s saving time and money, but what it’s really doing is shifting the burden onto its clients and the services that help them,”