A committee of Queensland legislators has backed the introduction of laws that will give police access to the new national facial biometrics matching scheme, despite giving the public less than a week to respond to the proposed changes.
The Police and Other Legislation (Identity and Biometrics Capability) bill was introduced to parliament on February 15 to allow the use and sharing of facial images for identity matching purposes, addressing limitations in the state’s current transport and policing legislation.
It proposes giving Queensland Police powers to access digital drivers licence images for non-transport related law enforcement purposes – without having to obtain an approval order – and removing the requirement for the Department of Transport and Main Roads to report annually to parliament on access to the images.
The bill followed the introduction of similar legislation at the Commonwealth level earlier in the month.
The Queensland parliament referred its bill to the legal affairs and community safety committee on the same day as it was introduced as part of usual legislative practice, but gave the committee just two weeks to report back.
This included a five-day window for stakeholders to provide feedback on the bill.
On Friday the committee recommended the bill be passed with only one minor change: that a review of the changes introduced by the new laws be conducted two years after implementation, instead of five.
The review would “evaluate the frequency, purpose and type of identity matching services used, the users, the error rates and any incidences of service expansion”, the committee said.
This came despite submissions that highlighted concerns around Queensland Police no longer being required to obtain a warrant to access Transport-held images when investigating non-transport related offences, and the potential for function creep.
The removal of scrutiny around access to drivers licence images was also highlighted as a concern, and there was confusion over whether evidence from the image matching services (IMS) will be admissible as evidence.
“The Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) noted that, although the explanatory notes for the bill stipulate that outputs from the IMS will not be used for evidentiary purposes, this was not specifically provided for in the legislation," the committee said.
It has also emerged that the Queensland privacy commissioner was consulted about Queensland’s participation in the Commonwealth scheme, but not the state bill.
The committee argues that concerns around “the removal of access safeguards, the removal of existing usage reporting requirements and the risk of ‘function creep'" could be addressed through “oversight of the use of IMS data”.
Parliament is expected to pass the laws in time for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games next month. It is scheduled to next sit on Tuesday.