Australian law enforcement agencies have collectively backed a plan to build a national facial recognition database that will match faces to images on passports, visas and driver’s licences in an effort to stamp out organised crime.
Attorneys-General and police ministers from the Commonwealth, states and territories met in Canberra today to agree on a coordinated plan to combat cross-border criminal networks (pdf).
The 2015-18 strategy will prioritise information sharing capabilities and the battle against cybercrime, including agreement to “explore” a national facial biometric matching capability.
“This will assist agencies to combat the increasingly sophisticated use of fraudulent identities by organised crime groups,” the document states.
The intergovernmental group also resolved to fast-track the development of a national firearms interface (NFI) that will hold a record of every gun in Australia “detailing every event in a firearm’s existence and providing the ability to trace the firearm from foundry to furnace".
The NFI was given the green light back in 2012 but has yet to get up and running, despite lobbying from the law enforcement community.
The plan also makes a handful of vague commitments to erasing legislative and cultural barriers that currently stop state and federal police forces from exchanging critical information.
It picks out encryption, digital currencies and the dark web as other key threats to national law enforcement.
It states that encrypted communication "enables crime to be committed remotely and with relative anonymity - characteristics that are attractive to serious and organised crime groups as they make the identification and prosecution of the offenders more difficult”.
The strategy also draws attention to virtual currencies such as Bitcoin which “can fall outside the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulatory framework”.
Law enforcement agencies, such anti-money laundering authority AUSTRAC and several banks, however, have all insisted that they don’t yet see Bitcoin as posing a significant threat to Australian financial regulations.