Govt seeks to enshrine national facial recognition system in law

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Govt seeks to enshrine national facial recognition system in law

Enters bills into parliament.

The federal government has introduced legislation that will underpin the exchange of identity information through the new national facial biometrics matching scheme.

The Identity-matching Services Bill was introduced into parliament by home affairs minister Peter Dutton this morning.

It would formalise into law an agreement signed last October between federal, state and territory leaders to establish a capability for law enforcement agencies to share and access identity information in real time [pdf].

Current image-based methods of identifying an unknown person are "slow, difficult to audit, and often involve manual tasking between requesting agencies and data holding agencies, sometimes taking several days or longer to process," the bill states. 

"This impedes the ability of government agencies to identify a person of interest quickly. 

The new scheme will "streamline these processes by providing authorised agencies with the means to rapidly share and match facial images drawn from existing databases in order to identify unknown persons, and detect people using multiple fraudulent identities".

The scheme is made up of five individual facial recognition services: the existing facial verification service (FVS) and the nascent facial identification service (FIS); and the new one person one licence service (OPOLS), facial recognition analysis utility service (FRAUS), and identity data sharing service (IDSS).

The Department of Home Affairs would be tasked with developing and operating the two central components of the scheme: the national drivers licence facial recognition solution (NDLFRS) - which will provide "identity-matching services involving identification information contributed by state and territory authorities” - and a central interoperability hub that facilitates the transmission of images.

The interoperability hub will allow for “data-sharing between agencies on a query and response basis, without storing any personal information”.

The bill authorises Home Affairs “to collect, use and disclose identification information through the interoperability hub and NDLFRS for identity and community protection activities and other purposes”.

It restricts Home Affairs from collecting, using, or disclosing information relating to a person’s political opinions or religious beliefs. Individuals would face up to two years imprisonment if protected information is recorded or disclosed.

It also establishes that private sector or local government entities can only use FVS identity-matching services “with the consent of the individual” when it is necessary to establish identity, such as requesting a bank account.

The bill was introduced alongside the Australian Passports Amendment (Identity-Matching Services) Bill, which will make Australian travel documents available to the identity-matching services.

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