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Australian government seeks to expand facial recognition system


Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will call on state and territory governments to disclose driver’s licence photos for use in a national facial recognition system, according to a report by IT News.

The initial phase of the facial recognition system – the face verification service (FVS) – was implemented last year, soon after it received $18.5 million in funding.

FVS is designed to decrease cross-border criminal activities by allowing law enforcement agencies share the facial images of citizens in order to verify identities and identify unknown individuals.

Using the technology, the Australian Federal Police and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are able to match facial images against records retained by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

It is also expected that access will also be expanded to other police and security agencies such as ASIO and Defence in the future.

At the time of the system’s launch, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the government was in discussions with the state and territories to bring driver’s licence images into the FVS, along with adding other images such as visa and passport photos over time.

At a COAG meeting on Thursday, Turnbull plans to ask permission from the state and territories to provide driver’s licence pictures for the purpose of expanding the system.

“At the federal level, about half of the population have got a photograph in a federal government system of one kind or another,” Turnbull said in an interview with ABC’s AM program. “We believe if we bring together driver’s licences, then we can start to build up a national system that will enable us to more quickly identify people, particularly … people that are suspected of, or involved in, terrorist activities.”

In addition to being used at airports, the face technology could also be used at shopping malls or other public places, Turnbull said.

Previously reported, the Australian Passport Office is developing in-house a new facial recognition system to keep pace with the country’s two government biometrics initiatives.

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