Pending bill delays biometric data upload to drivers’ license database in Australia
Australia’s Capital Territory (ACT) government is planning to upload data to a national biometric database for the management of information from drivers’ licences, but the project will not proceed until the legal framework has been okayed in the federal Parliament, according to a report by the Canberra Times.
The new biometric system which the ACT is delaying participation in is a facial recognition system that will see licence photos and other relevant data uploaded on to a central platform to ease identification of license owners. At the moment, there is no indication of when Parliament will pass the law, the report suggested, as it is delayed due to constraints brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill, dubbed the Identity-matching Service Bill, was first tabled in the federal Parliament in 2018, but it has since suffered setbacks preventing it from being passed. Passing the bill will see the activation of the National Drivers Licence Facial Recognition Solution (NDLFRS) which was subscribed to by all Australian states and territories in 2017 during a session of the Council of Australian Governments.
The Department of Home Affairs will be managing the database that will ensure the verification of facial data by matching faces, in real time, to a system in order to fight identity theft and persons suspected of crime. The photos will be those extracted from official identification credentials issued in Australia, such as passports, driver licences and immigration cards.
So far, other states such as South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria are said to have already uploaded some 7 million photos to the biometric sharing system, with Queensland also planning to follow suit.
“The uploading of ACT data will not commence until Commonwealth and ACT legislation is passed, and participation agreements are signed. ACT residents will be informed of their drivers’ licence images being uploaded to the system when legislative frameworks (Commonwealth and ACT) are finalised,” the Canberra Times report quoted an ACT government spokesman as confirming.
Meanwhile, privacy advocates have praised the ACT government for deciding not to go ahead with the uploading of the licence photos until the law is passed. Justin Warren, an official from digital rights advocacy group known as Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) said the group is disappointed that some states were going ahead with the project without the law having been passed. “ACT is doing the right thing because once they give this database to Home Affairs, all of the negotiating leverage is gone,” he was quoted as saying.