Australian Senate passes biometrics collection bill

August 12, 2015 - 

Without first putting the matter to a vote, the Australian Senate has passed new legislation to strengthen the country’s biometrics system, according to a report by 9News.com.au.

The legislation was initially met with some opposition in parliament when introduced by the Coalition in June, with the parliamentary human rights committee deeming the collection of children’s fingerprints and facial biometric data a violation of privacy rights.

The bill, which is subject to final approval by the House of Representatives, permits the government to collect the biometric data of children as young as 10 without acquiring parental consent.

If approved, the bill would potentially prevent children who fight with extremist groups from returning to the country.

Under the legislation, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection would be able to match the fingerprints and potentially iris scans and facial images of travellers entering and exiting Australia against a database containing the biometric data of known criminals and suspected terrorists.

By allowing biometric checks, the government would be able to detect those minors flagged by other countries who have previously engaged in terrorist activity or serious crime, as well as better identify any kids who have been abducted or smuggled.

All biometric data collected from adults will be immediately deleted after it is matched against a database, while any biometric data taken from a child will be erased once they turn 18.

The biometric collection system is also designed to resolve the asylum seeker caseload, as it will help the government to more effectively identify and catch rejected asylum seekers re-entering Australia under fake identities.

Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash updated the legislation with a clause that explicitly prevents a person’s biometrics data from being collected in a cruel, inhuman or degrading method.

If officially approved, the bill will allow live scans of passenger fingerprints on a mobile device at airports and seaports; streamline seven biometric collection powers into a broad discretionary power; provide flexibility on types of biometric data, as well as circumstances and places where it can be collected; and prevent the implementation of a universal biometrics collection policy.

Previously reported, Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection is moving ahead with its plan to overhaul the customs and border process for incoming and departing travellers by introducing a new biometric border clearance solution.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.