Legislation proposes new national facial recognition services for Australia

Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton has introduced legislation to create a national facial recognition system available to federal, state, and territorial governments, ComputerWorld reports.

The “Identity-matching services Bill 2018” proposes a query and response system similar to the country’s Face Verification Service (FVS), according to ComputerWorld, with government agencies responsible for the storage of images that originate with them. The bill would establish a National Driver License Facial Recognition Solution (NDLFRS), a federated database of identification information run by Home Affairs. The new system would be divided into five separate services with different access requirements.

The FVS will allow government agencies and businesses (subject to consent) to verify the identity of an individual by comparing an ID document image against the database. The Face Identification Service (FIS) will perform a one-to-many search, and be available only to law enforcement, intelligence, and anti-corruption agencies. The One Person One License Service (OPOLS) will allow state and territorial authorities to search for duplicate identities among ID documents. The Facial Recognition Analysis Utility Service (FRAUS) will allow agencies contributing images to the new NDLFRS to check for duplicate records or poor-quality photos. The Identity Data Sharing Service (IDSS) allows for sharing between different agencies and levels of government via an interoperability hub run by Home Affairs.

The bill is intended to speed up information sharing for identifying unknown individuals and identity fraud, which currently often relies on lengthy manual processes, and also reduce incidents of identity theft through use of a fraudulent photo together with legitimate details in an ID document.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the system would enable agencies to detect fraud and security concerns in real-time, SBS reports.

Lifehacker suggests that use of the system could expand beyond the stated purposes, pointing out that when the Australian government initially proposed metadata collection, it was to be used to fight serious crimes like child trafficking and terrorism, but that agencies responsible for regulating dog races and fishing have also been given access to the information.

Along with the main bill, a separate piece of legislation, the “Australian Passports Amendment (Identity-Matching Services) 2018,” was also introduced in parliament.

As previously reported, a deal was struck to integrate drivers’ license photos with Australia’s national database in January.

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