Australia to launch national facial recognition matching system in 2016

The Australian government is expected to roll out a new biometric system next year that will allow law enforcement agencies to share facial images amongst themselves, according to a report by ZDNet.

The facial recognition system will deploy a one-to-one matching functionality to confirm identities of known individuals before gradually introducing additional functionality to match unknown individuals, said the Attorney-General’s department.

“The technical architecture of the capability will adopt a hub-and-spoke model to facilitate ‘query and response’ matching requests between participating agencies,” the department said. “The capability will allow agencies with a lawful authority to collect and share existing holdings of facial images (via the Hub) to check the validity of images presented to them with facial image holdings of other agencies. There are currently over 100 million facial images held by agencies that issue identity documents.”

Several agencies will be granted access to the system including the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Defence, and the Attorney-General’s Department under the guidance of AusCheck.

The Attorney-General’s department is currently working with Austroads, the association of Australasian road transport and traffic agencies, to create a business case for submitting drivers’ licences to the system.

The two agencies are working towards completing an agreement on a “preferred national approach” by the end of the year.

The system is designed to share still images and will not integrate any licence plate cameras or closed-circuit TV.

However, the department said that the system could still potentially use stills from these high-resolution cameras.

“The capability is designed to replace existing manual, ad hoc facial image sharing arrangements between agencies, providing an efficient, secure, and accountable mechanism through which images can be shared and matched,” the department said. “The design and operation of the hub will be informed by independent privacy impact assessments, conducted in consultation with federal and state privacy commissioners.”

Instead of developing a new centralized database, the system will be operated in a hub-and-spoke topology to prevent “considerable privacy and data security concerns”.

Earlier this week, an independent report found that Australia’s federal government has failed to perform adequate privacy impact assessments on nearly 90 percent of the national security measures it has passed over the past 14 years, according to independent research

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