Govt agrees to limit biometric data collection at airports

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Govt agrees to limit biometric data collection at airports

Bill to be watered down.

The Australian Government has agreed to remove provisions in its latest draft bill on national security which would have allowed law enforcement agencies to significantly expand the types of biometic data collected at the country's airports.

The Government today said it had accepted all 37 recommendations made by a parliamentary committee on its 'foreign fighters' bill, which is aimed at preventing and disrupting domestic terrorist threats.

The bill also attempted to significantly expand the collection of facial recognition imaging of Australians and non-citizens passing through international airports.

It proposed to extend the biometric data collected -
 which currently involves a person’s passport photo - to include fingerprint and iris scans, and attempted to include Australian citizens in its current photographing of foreigners departing and arriving through the SmartGate systems and eGates.

But the parliamentary committee reviewing the bill recommended against an expansion, arguing that the collection of additional categories of biometric data should be covered under entirely new legislation "should it be required", given the sensitive nature of the information involved.

The committee also recommended the Government work with the Australian Privacy Commissioner to conduct a privacy impact statement before putting forward such a bill.

The committee similarly recommended the Privacy Commissioner assess the current data collected and stored by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Customs and report on the result to the Attorney-General by June 30 next year.

Attorney-General George Brandis today said the Government had accepted all the recommendations and would adapt the bill accordingly, in an effort to have it passed next week.

The Attorney-General's Department said it would remove the ability to expand the types of biometric data collected from the bill, and promised to conduct a privacy impact statement prior to introducing any future relevant legislation.

It also said it would ensure a privacy assessment regarding the Immigration and Customs data collection was handed to Brandis by the end of June next year.

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