Australian budget commits hundreds of millions in funding for identity programs

Australian budget commits hundreds of millions in funding for identity programs

The Australian 2018-2019 federal budget includes several major funding commitments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars for government biometric and identity programs.

Budget items include AU$130 million (roughly US$97 million) for the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) IT infrastructure for identity management and visa processing, according to ZDNet. A government budget document says the purpose of the funding is “to upgrade the capacity and performance of the Department of Home Affairs’ ICT infrastructure, enhance its analytics and threat management capabilities and establish a platform for the enterprise identity management system.”

Funds are also being allocated to increasing the presence of police and border forces at airports, and screen incoming cargo and mail.

Reuters reports AU$59.1 million ($44 million) is earmarked to create a national facial recognition database of suspected terrorists to support their identification in streets, public buildings, and sporting venues. The database will be compiled in part from driver’s license images following an agreement between the federal and state and territory governments. The number of cameras will also be increased, as ZDNet says AU$30 million ($22 million) will be given to the Safer Communities Fund to deploy more CCTV cameras.

The GovPass program will receive AU$92.4 million ($69 million), including AU$60.9 million ($45 million) for the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to accelerate its implementation, ZDNet reports. GovPass will provide government services to Australians online with identity verification performed with facial recognition, and the DTA recently published a request for tender for the “liveness capture” portion of the service.

The legislation which is proposed to form the basis for Australia’s DHA-operated facial recognition system has been criticized by both independent bodies such as the Law Council of Australia, as well as state governments of Victoria and Queensland.

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