Documents released through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request reveal that the Australian government is trialling online age verification for alcohol purchases.
As Movendi International previously reported, one of the major problems with the rapidly growing online alcohol sale and delivery sector in Australia is the easy access of alcohol to those below the legal age for buying alcohol. One report by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) found that none of the major online alcohol retailers reviewed used point-of-sale age verification to confirm age.
Roadmap for age verification system
The eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, is tasked with developing a “roadmap” for an age verification system for adult content by the end of 2022. The recently released documents show that options for online age verification are already being trialled in the country.
Documents which were released in August on the transparency website Right to Know revealed that the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been preparing for age verification and digital ID trials from September 2021.
The trial was set to be conducted with online retailers in Australia, using external ID providers Australia Post and Mastercard. The beta trials were to start with alcohol online purchases in September and run from three to six months, involving 100 users per use case. Later the trials are to be extended to gambling websites, but the date is not confirmed.
For now, there is no information on age verification for online pornography or social media. But in 2022 the trials could be extended to cover lootboxes in video games, as well as using the government’s mygovid as a form of age verification.
Mastercard announced in September 2021 that it was working with the DTA to explore how its digital ID service could support age verification. This includes signing up for accreditation for the government’s Trusted Digital Identity Framework, which sets out the rules for digital ID providers. According to Mastercard’s announcement they would offer services to businesses, but ID information would be encrypted and protected with facial biometrics, to ensure only customers can access these data and that they have control of their data.
DTA has claimed they are not actively participating in the trials and that they are being run by private businesses.
The documents reveal that the government intends to use these trials to:
- inform online age verification policy,
- track the impact on revenue, and
- track customer adoption and experience.
As per the documents DTA is also tasked with determining whether digital identity legislation would cover age verification, and prepare an “education campaign”, focusing on privacy and security, the accuracy and effectiveness, and the impact on businesses and users.
The Online Safety Act is to come into force in late January next year. The Act will require age verification for viewing adult online content. Furthermore, there are plans to develop a code for social media sites, messaging services, search engines, apps and internet service providers to ensure adult content is not accessible to children within six months of the law coming into effect.