New legislation has been introduced to the parliament that will make it easier for state, territory and federal departments to share facial recognition data in near real-time. Five separate facial recognition services will work together so that processes that used to take days can be completed in a time that allows law enforcement and other agencies to identify people more readily.
The five services are: the facial verification service (FVS) the facial identification service (FIS); the one person one licence service (OPOLS), facial recognition analysis utility service (FRAUS), and identity data sharing service (IDSS).
The government's explanatory memorandum says the new laws will be used for
- Preventing identity crime
- General law enforcement
- National security
- Protective security
- Community safety
- Road safety
- Identity verification
One of the new features of the scheme is a centrally held database of all driver's license photos.
A National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution (NDLFRS) will be hosted by the Commonwealth on behalf of the states and territories. It will consist of a federated database of identification information contained in government identification documents (initially driver licences) issued by state and territory authorities, and a facial recognition system for biometric comparison of facial images against facial images in the database.
I think the key world here is initially. The last two decades of Australian governments have been increasingly focussed on tracking citizens and using technology to keep track of who is who and where they are. And the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, who has introduced this bill is well known for his strong views on law and order and the need for law enforcement agencies to have greater powers.
Obviously, identity theft and other crimes are serious but the ability for the government to use these services opens the door for broader use than the explanations suggest. We saw that with the introduction of metadata retention laws.
Initially, we were told that the metadata was being retained to assist with investigations into child trafficking, terrorism and other serious matter. But the list of agencies with access to that data includes greyhound racing authorities and fisheries and wildlife departments. That suggests the story we're being told isn't the full story.