Australia to enshrine national facial recognition system in law
07 February 2018 16:40 GMT

Australia's federal government has introduced legislation planned to form the basis for exchange of identity information using the country's new national facial biometrics matching scheme.

The Identity-matching Services Bill was introduced into parliament by home affairs minister Peter Dutton.

Current image-based methods of identifying an unknown person are "slow, difficult to audit, and often involve manual tasking between requesting agencies and data holding agencies, sometimes taking several days or longer to process," the bill states. 

The new bill will formalise into law an agreement signed last October between federal, state and territory leaders to establish a capability for law enforcement agencies to share and access identity information in real time.

Dutton said the Bill supported the government's "digital transformation agenda", and offered significant cost savings and "greater identity assurance" for companies needing to comply with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations.

An annual report will be handed to Parliament on the system, Dutton said, on usage of the system by public and private entities, as well as a statutory review after five years.

The Bill also allows the Minister for Home Affairs to expand the information used in the system, or to add new services.

"To ensure that privacy and other human rights implications of these rules are taken into account, the Bill requires these rules to be developed in consultation with the Information Commissioner and the Human Rights Commissioner," Dutton said.

Information about race, political opinions, religion, organisation member, sexual orientation, genetics, or criminal record is not used the system, but could be inferred by the identity information stored in the system -- name, address, date and place of birth, gender, and facial image.