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Australia moves responsibility for federal biometrics to Attorney General’s Department

Australia moves responsibility for federal biometrics to Attorney General’s Department

The Australian government is in the process of rolling out digital IDs with the anticipation of putting out legislation for the system mid-next year, and shifting responsibilities as part of its preparations. As of August 8th, 2.9 million people out of the 25 million people who use myGov have a digital ID, Government News reports.

On August 3rd, Home Affairs transferred responsibility for identity and biometrics policy to the Attorney-General’s Department as the government prepares to expand its digital ID program, according to Innovation Aus. Home Affairs will now oversee protective security policy.

Legislation that would “enable facial biometric verification using state government data sources” could also come to pass at the same time that legislation around digital IDs is being considered.

The National Strategy for Identity Resilience was signed off by federal, state, and territory ministers in June, which said biometrics-based digital IDs that work nationally could become the norm in the country. Laws are likely to expand Identity Matching Services (IDMS) to include services like the Face Verification Service (FVS) and Face Identification Service (FIS).

The FVS allows a person’s photo to be matched with their ID documents, with consent, and is already used by some government agencies. The FVS will expand to the government and private sector in the future partly to prevent the copies of credentials from needing to be stored. FIS, on the other hand, will only be used by national security and law enforcement for matching photos to government records.

The National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution would support such services, which is not yet in operation due to the Identity-Matching Services Bill not being passed in 2019, when the Liberal Party was in power.

Home Affairs awarded Fujitsu Australia an AU$37.6 million contract to provide managed services for the IDMS program including the Document Verification Service and Face Matching Service back in January.

This follows the Digital Transformation Agency losing its digital ID program responsibilities in July. “The confusion around digital ID is crippling the ability of the private sector to plan for a whole-of-economy system,” says Paul Fletcher, shadow minister for government services and the digital economy, in a release. Fletcher’s party formed the government of Australia through years of digital ID efforts, until a change in administration after last year’s elections.

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