17 December 2015

Biometrics Hub

The national Minister for Justice has released the bland and egregiously narrow 47 page preliminary Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) [PDF] for the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability, aka the system.

That PIA is discussed here. The Minister states -
This system will help government agencies combat identity crime, organised crime and terrorism. It enables law enforcement and selected government agencies to share and match photographs on identity documents such as passports to strengthen identity-checking processes, while maintaining strong privacy safeguards.
The release of this PIA coincides with yesterday's first anniversary of the Martin Place Siege. It marks a significant step in the implementation of the capability, which was one of the recommendations of the Martin Place Siege: Joint Commonwealth – New South Wales review. This review recommended greater use of biometrics to address vulnerabilities in current name-based identity checking arrangements that can enable people to use multiple identities when dealing with government agencies.
At last month's Law, Crime and Community Safety Council (LCCSC) meeting, Ministers noted the outcomes of the PIA and committed to progress the development of an intergovernmental agreement on state and territory participation in the system, in consultation with transport ministers, for signature in early 2016. This independent PIA supports the 'hub and spoke' design of the system, which enables agencies to share facial images from their existing holdings without creating a new centralised database.
The Minister goes on to state-
All the recommendations made in the PIA report have been accepted in part or full. Some of these recommendations go to issues of broader national information sharing that are being progressed with the states and territories via the LCCSC.
The preliminary assessment is the just the first of a series of PIAs that will be conducted throughout the design and implementation of the system, which is expected to commence initial operation in mid-2016.
In September this year the Minister announced
the Australian Government's investment of $18.5 million to develop a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability.
This system is designed to complement the existing Document Verification Service (DVS) to help combat identity crime.
This system will facilitate the secure, automated and auditable sharing and matching of facial images between participating government agencies which have a lawful basis to collect and use facial images. It is being built around a central hub that acts as a router to enable agencies to exchange information on a 'query and response' basis.
The hub is not a centralised database, it will not conduct any matching and it will not store any personal information. Participating agencies will also be subject to audits and independent oversight by a range of external bodies.