Government builds national facial recognition database | information age

The government has begun collecting images of state driver’s licenses. Image: Shutterstock

The Home Office has started work on its national facial recognition database, putting out to tender a major project to consolidate national ID matching last week.

Home Affairs is looking for a company to “build and deploy” this system which will include the migration of a pre-existing centralized database of facial images collected from state driver’s licenses as first reported by InnovationAus.

Legislation governing the identity matching system and associated facial recognition database was proposed in mid-2019.

But that hit a snag when a parliamentary committee review concluded the laws needed to be overhauled to make the new home affairs capacity “built around privacy”. [and] transparency” and “subject to parliamentary oversight”, including a basic annual report on the use of identity matching services.

Still, Home Affairs went ahead with the project, quietly initiating the procurement process for a company to “host and manage” its Identity Matching Services system on Austender’s website.

He is privately informing the industry of the tender requirements today.

Last week’s tender drew fierce criticism from civil and digital rights activists who fear the government is going ahead with a system that lacks proper oversight and goes against the grain. democratic transparency.

A representation of the facial recognition system architecture. Image: Home Affairs/AusTender

The Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL) has written to Home Secretary Karen Andrews – whose constituency is on the Gold Coast – asking if the department was drafting the bill, if there is would have a public consultation for a new bill and whether the government has considered international movements against the use of facial recognition technology.

Angus Murray, vice-president of the QCCL, said information age it was “a strange thing for the government to do, and a strange time to do it”.

“We actually see the government moving away from what democracy means in Australia in order to advance technology and law enforcement powers,” he said.

“It’s not at the forefront of what the government is doing as election season approaches.

“This was done without an announcement from the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister, other than posting a form on an obscure government site.”

Murray is particularly troubled by the government’s decision to maintain its facial recognition system despite ongoing reviews of Australia’s privacy law and major reform of electronic surveillance legislation.

“Why would we opt for a facial recognition system in this context? asked Murray.

“It looks like they are spending money to spend money, for something that will be changed anyway.

“And that calls into question whether this government should continue what it is doing with these law enforcement powers.”