Julie Bishop wants to store Australian passports in “the cloud”


blog With Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to the Prime Ministership, sometimes your writer feels as though the whole Federal Government has gone technology-mad. It’s a good feeling — so much is being discussed at high levels that the technology sector has been trying to get on the table for years — but things are also getting deeply, deeply weird. Take the idea which emerged into the light this morning from the vaults of the Department of Foreign Affairs, regarding “cloud passports”. The Sydney Morning Herald tells us (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“Under a cloud passport, a traveller’s identity and biometrics data would be stored in a cloud, so passengers would no longer need to carry their passports and risk having them lost or stolen. DFAT says 38,718 passports were registered as lost or stolen in 2014-15, consistent with the 38,689 reported missing the previous year.”

I’m deeply ambivalent about this one. While it is definitely the case that it feels quite archaic at times to be carrying around a physical piece of paper whenever we travel overseas, at the same time, I’m not quite sure if Australians are ready to travel without that kind of physical authority that we are who we say we are. It’s quite hard to get a passport in the first place — you need to go through multiple processes of identifying yourself.

Do we really want to blithely store that data on some global cloud computing platform so that authorities around the world can access it? It feels like there are vast privacy and security implications from doing so.

And yet … there is no doubt that this is the way things like this will inevitably go. Are we ready for it yet? I’m not quite sure. It feels like something that might be more 2025 rather than 2015.

Image credit: Department of Foreign Affairs


    • Hey I bet every Aussie with a passport has always wanted a brand new identity (because the old one leaked and was stolen en mass).

  1. Not a good idea, especially if you travel to countries that are either off the beaten track or corrupt (or both).

    • This. I can’t see cloud passports being an issue for Australia and the UK … but Russia? Yahuh. I’d be sticking to paper when travelling there.

    • I’d say outright impossible. You always need a way to securely and uniquely link an individual with their cloud passport, which according to the statement is “biometrics data”.

      So this is only going to be viable when another country has biometric reading equipment and solid network connections anywhere you might possibly be asked for your passport. That implies many millions of dollars of expenditure, a pre-existing arrangement with specific countries, and probably an international committee to nut out the details of the standard.

      If everybody was really motivated we could probably get something up and running with new zealand or the UK in just a couple of years. Practically it’s more likely to be a decade and will coexist with the existing passport for a long time after that.

  2. Call me crackers if you want. But I’d like this. If you have a cloud passport then surely it can save time and hassle when traveling. The only drawback that I can see is that passports in the cloud could just be given a “cross” in 2 seconds by a Mandarin and suddenly “Now way Hosea you can not fly through here”. It must be the future though surely. I’d use a cloud passport.

  3. Might work ok at airports but passports are also used for hotels, car hire,police etc. Also how do you prove the person you want to employ has a valid visa of the right type?

  4. Yeah lets store 25 off million peoples life travel histories, identities and bio metric data all in one place which is online all the time. Man the amount of criminals that would bring out of the woodwork let alone the local enterprises or govt agencies that would want to and probably lobby access that! (then we get to talking about ‘allied countries’ too.

    We have enough issues with meta data retention as it is.

    I guess one can say the LNP has their heads truly in the ‘cloud’.

  5. I don’t mind the concept. I just don’t trust the technology to be secure, and its highly unlikely I ever will. Way too many points of human interaction.

  6. It seems like our current government is truly determined to turn Australia into a “one stop shop” for identity theft…

  7. There is one perspective in all this that is essential:

    Picture yourself in a boat on a river
    with tangerine trees and marmalade skies
    Somebody calls you
    You answer quite slowly
    a girl with kaleidoscope eyes
    cellophane flowers of yellow and green
    towering over your head
    Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes and she’s gone

    passports in the cloud with diamonds
    passports in the cloud with diamonds
    passports in the cloud with diamonds
    passports in the cloud with diamonds

  8. One assumes, naturally, that this will be an Australian cloud? Permanently moored over the Land of Oz? And of course protected by Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons?



    • doesn’t matter where its hosted it needs to be accessible world wide if you want to be able to travel with it so its open to abuse world wide.

      • It does protect it slightly better from people inside the organisation managing the cloud. They actually have laws that can be brought to bear against them.

        Insider Data theft is a legitimate concern, and it is mitigated somewhat in nations where the reward for the data is less than the reward of the job.

  9. It would certainly make the government into the market leader or even monopoly provider of identity. Is that what we want?

  10. It’s ok you don’t need to worry about security as the rate our internet speeds are falling rapidly behind other countries the upload speed from australia to access this cloud will be dial up equivalent and they won’t bother haha

  11. The most dangerous thing about that insane idea. A piece of paper that is difficult to forge might be the only thing that saves you from purposefully corrupted data.
    All digital means, no track record of hard copy data, so change the bits and the bits are the sole authority and you instantly become a non-citizen with no defence. No access to bank accounts, no access to credit, only the cash in you pocket (if you have any) and an arrest of sight warrant for being a non-person.
    A paper trail for determining citizenship is an essential safety and screw a government that would lay waste to our citizenship by opening to abuse by other global players, spy agencies like the CIA and NSA or intrusive foreign corporations or even the main stream media’s favourite enemies of the moment Russia and China.
    Using the cloud with the computer is always right attitude is a recipe for disaster for many future victims.

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