Identity theft expert wins Fulbright Scholarship

Dr Clare Sullivan, expert in digital identity and research fellow with the University of Adelaide's Law School, has been awarded the 2011 Fulbright South Australia Scholarship.

Dr Clare Sullivan, expert in digital identity and research fellow with the University of Adelaide's Law School, has been awarded the 2011 Fulbright South Australia Scholarship.
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Friday, 11 March 2011

A research fellow in the University of Adelaide's Law School has won a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to study in the United States.

Dr Clare Sullivan has been named the 2011 Fulbright South Australia Scholar, which will enable her to spend four months at George Washington University to conduct research into the nature of digital identity.

Dr Sullivan has practised law for 30 years and has published widely on the relationship between the law, identity and changing technology. She has international experience in private practice, teaching law, and has been a research analyst with the Australian Institute of Criminology and a consultant to its Global Electronic and Economic Crime Unit.

Through her Fulbright, Dr Sullivan will examine whether the digital identity that people use for transactions online is emerging as a new legal concept in the US and if so, what the legal nature of digital identity is and how it can be legally protected.

"The concept of digital identity provides a new perspective for the analysis and classification of identity crime, particularly in distinguishing identity theft from fraud," Dr Sullivan says.

"It also leads to consideration of whether intentional or reckless misuse of an individual's identity can be considered criminal damage."

Dr Sullivan's research in the United Kingdom and Australia will provide the framework for this analysis.

"Typically, the identity information required for transactions consists of full name, gender, date and place of birth, a signature or PIN and often, a social security number. It may also include photographic and biometric comparison. This set of information is used for transactions with government and with private sector organisations," she says.

"Although identity has been used in commercial dealings for some years, my research shows that a legal concept of identity for transactions has now clearly emerged in the United Kingdom as a result of the Identity Cards Act 2006 (UK) and the national identity scheme it establishes.

"The emergence of a similar concept is also evident in Australia, particularly as a consequence of the federal health registration scheme proposed in 2007. These developments are based on the premise of one person: one identity which, of itself, constitutes is a major change to the law."

The nature of digital identity has been designated as a priority area in both Australia and the US. Dr Sullivan's research will be able to inform both governments about this emerging area of law.

Dr Sullivan is a graduate of the University of Adelaide with a Masters of Laws (LLM), an MBA and a PhD in Law.

In November 2010 the University of Adelaide Press published her book, Digital Identity, and she has authored a trade-based money laundering report for the Australian Institute of Criminology, to be published this year.

The prestigious Fulbright program is the largest educational scholarship of its kind, created by US Senator J. William Fulbright and the US Government in 1946. Aimed at promoting mutual understanding through educational exchange, it operates between the US and 155 countries.

The Fulbright South Australia Scholarship is supported by the South Australian Government and South Australian-based universities.

Applications for Fulbright Scholarships in 2012 open on 1 June 2011. For more information, go to:


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