Govt tries to expand Australia's facial verification system

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Govt tries to expand Australia's facial verification system

Will seek access to driver's licence photos.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will ask state and territory governments to hand over driver's licence photos on Thursday for use in a national facial recognition system.

The first phase of the facial recognition system - the face verification service (FVS) - went live late last year, after receiving $18.5 million in funding.

It intends to reduce cross-border criminal activities by letting law enforcement agencies share citizens' facial images to verify identities and identify unknown individuals.

The Australian Federal Police and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are already capable of matching facial images against records held by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

It is also expected that access will also be expanded to other police and security agencies such as ASIO and Defence in the future.

At the time of launching the system, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the government was in talks with the state and territories to include driver's licence images into the FVS, with other types of images such as visa and passport photos to be added over time.

Turnbull will use a COAG meeting on Thursday to seek permission from the state and territories to hand over driver's licence pictures to allow the expansion of the system.

“At the federal level, about half of the population have got a photograph in a federal government system of one kind or another,” Turnbull told ABC’s AM program on Wednesday.

“We believe if we bring together driver's licences, then we can start to build up a national system that will enable us to more quickly identify people, particularly ... people that are suspected of, or involved in, terrorist activities.”

In addition to the technology being used at airports, Turnbull indicated that it could also be used at shopping centres or other places of interest.

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