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Australian government to invest $18.5m on national facial recognition system


The Australian federal government will invest $18.5 million in a new law enforcement facial recognition system called the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability, according to a report by Computerworld.

The move comes a couple weeks after it was revealed that 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.

The new facial recognition system will allow government agencies to match images of unidentified individuals to photographs stored on various government databases.

Starting in mid-2016, law enforcement and government agencies will share and match photographs on identify documents to strengthen identity-checking processes.

The system will initially provide a one-to-one image-based verification service among Commonwealth agencies, while additional government agencies are expected to join eventually.

A one-to-many image-based identification service is expected to follow at a later date, allowing law enforcement and security agencies to match one photograph of an unknown individual against multiple photographs stored on government databases to help verify their identity.

The government said the system will help them identify terrorists and known criminals, as well as detect fraud cases involving criminals that use more than one identity.

Australian justice minister Michael Keenan said the system will operate within the guidelines of the Privacy Act 1988, ensuring that those agencies using the system will need to attain legislative authority to collect and use facial images.

“The capability will not be a centralized biometric database and will not retain or store any images that are shared between agencies,” Keenan said in a statement.

The government is also working with states and territories to look at whether police and road agencies can participate in the program.

The facial recognition system announcement follows the Australian government’s Document Verification Service (DVS), which provides organizations with the means to electronically match identifying data – but not photographs – on government issued identity documents.

“These checks are conducted in real time to inform decisions that rely upon the confirmation of a person’s identity,” said Keenan. “It provides a key tool for organizations that are seeking to prevent the enrollment or registration of customers, clients and even staff who may be using fraudulent identities.”

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