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Australian Government introduces legislation to enable sharing of facial images for identity matching

Australian Government introduces legislation to enable sharing of facial images for identity matching

The Australian Government has introduced two new Bills, Identity-matching
Services Bill 2018
and the  Australian Passports
Amendment (Identity-matching Services) Bill 2018
into the parliament to allow the images held in government systems nationally
for identity-matching services.

In October last year, Australian government leaders from the
Commonwealth and the States and Territories agreed
to establish a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability, signing an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on
Identity Matching Services

The identity matching services in the Identity-matching
Services Bill 2018 include: Face Identification Service (FIS), FRAUS (Facial
Recognition Analysis Utility Service), FVS (Face Verification Service), IDSS (Identity
Data Sharing Service) and OPOLS (One Person One Licence Service).

Generally, identity-matching services involve requests for electronic comparison of identification information about an individual to
identify the individual, verify the individual’s identity, check whether the
individual has more than one State or Territory government identification
document of a particular kind, or manage identification information about the
individual in the National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution (NDLFRS).

The IGA noted that driver licences are currently the most
commonly used photographic identity document in Australia and hence access to
these images would be critical to maximising the benefits provided by the Face
Matching Service. This will be done through the NDLFRS.

The FVS enables a facial image of an individual to be
compared by an entity against a facial image held on a specific government
record associated with that same individual. It involves a one-to-one search. This
will allow Commonwealth, state and territory agencies, and potentially the
private sector in the future, to verify the known or claimed identities of
individuals by reference to facial images in government identity records, such
as passport, visa, citizenship and driver licence images.

Before using the FVS, an entity must have either the consent
of the individual associated with the facial image to be verified or another
legislative basis or authority to collect and use the information to be sought
via the FVS.

The FIS enables a facial image to be compared against
multiple facial images (one-to-many search) held on a database of government
records. It will allow authorised facial recognition specialists in law
enforcement, national security and anti-corruption agencies to identify unknown
persons or check if a person has multiple identities.

The OPOLS enables a narrowly focused check, on a constrained
one-to-many basis, of facial images within the NDLFRS to identify whether a
licence holder or applicant may hold another licence of the same type, in the
same or different identity, in another jurisdiction.

The IDSS will allow for the secure sharing of biometric
identity information in other circumstances. It is any service that involves a
disclosure that is of identification information about an individual; and for
the purpose of an identity or community protection activity.

The Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs may develop
and operate the interoperability hub, which relays electronic communications
between bodies and persons requesting and providing identity-matching services;
and the NDLFRS, which includes a database of identification information from
State and Territory authorities and may be used to provide identity-matching

For the purposes of State and Territory laws that limit
disclosure of identification information by an authority of a State or
Territory but have an exception for disclosure authorised by a Commonwealth
law, this Part authorises such disclosure to the Department for inclusion of
the information in the NDLFRS.

The Australian Passports Amendment (Identity-matching
Services) Bill 2018 will amend the Australian Passports Act 2005 (Passports
Act) to provide a legal basis for ensuring that Australian travel document data
is available in an automated fashion for identity-matching services.

The element of human discretion in deciding whether to
disclose the information in each case is being removed. According to the Bill,
the expected future use of FVS by large client-service agencies would make human
intervention infeasible.

Consistent with provisions in Commonwealth legislation for
comparable client-service activities, the Bill will also incorporate scope for
the Minister to automate other decisions under the Passports Act.

The objective is for low-risk decisions to be automatically
taken by a computer within objective parameters. This includes decisions to
collect personal information for processing passport applications using the FVS
and decisions to issue passports to people whose biographical data and facial
images exactly match information in previous passport applications.

According to the Bill, decisions made by a computer may be
substituted if found to be incorrect, and that this does not limit the
reviewability of decisions about Australian travel documents.

These two bills will allow law enforcement and national
security agencies to act without delay to identify people in circumstances
where their liberty and physical security, or the liberty and physical security
of others, are under threat, and take time-critical action to prevent injury or
loss of life.

The IGA commits parties to the agreement to preserve or
introduce legislation as appropriate to the extent necessary to support the
collection, use and disclosure of facial images and related identity
information via the services. 

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