Changes to Australia’s privacy law remove ban on biometric data for crime-fighting

December 11, 2012 - 

Under changes to Australia’s privacy law, facial scans taken for passports, drivers’ licenses, or nightclub entry can now be kept in law enforcement and spy agency databases, The Herald Sun reports. 

The Gillard Government’s new privacy legislation has removed the ban on biometric data being handed to crime-fighting agencies. Officials suggest the lifting of this ban could be of immense benefit in fighting crime.

According to the Attorney-General’s Department, police will be able to ask private companies to hand over facial scans of their patrons.

A spokesperson told News Ltd., that “police could ask a government agency to help them identify an alleged murderer through matching an image obtained via CCTV with client photos.”

In Australia, biometric data has now been reclassified as “sensitive data,” indicating government agencies must apply stronger privacy safeguards.

“Information can only be shared with law enforcement agencies in strictly limited circumstances with increased privacy protections,” the spokesperson said.

This new re-classification of biometric data along with the removal of the ban for biometric data in crime-fighting scenarios has had many group in Australia suggest this new change is susceptible to abuse and represents an invasion of privacy.

According to the Herald Sun report, Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O’Gorman called the changes a “Big Brother” invasion of privacy, suggesting law enforcement agencies should need warrants to obtain biometric data.

“This is increasing law enforcement agencies access to data without judicial supervision,” O’Gorman said. “[This type of scan] is something you never thought- let along consented – would end up in a police database. Databases can be misused, and not just in totalitarian countries.”

This new legislation will commence in 15 months, to give government agencies and private companies time to comply.

As reported previously in, Australia is introducing a new biometric visa application process for applicants from Cambodia, beginning December 17, 2012.

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About Adam Vrankulj

Adam Vrankulj is an editor for His background consists of online news writing, editing and content marketing. Adam has written for, BlogTO and was the editor and curator for the nextMEDIA and CIX Source publications. He has a degree in journalism and is passionate about science, technology and social innovation. Contact Adam, or follow him at @adamvrankulj