The media release states
New Face Verification Service to tackle identity crime
Today I announce that the first phase of Australia’s new biometric Face Verification Service (FVS) is now operational, providing the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Federal Police access to citizenship images held by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Other types of images such as visa, passport and driver licence photos will be added over time, with access expanded to other government agencies.
The FVS is not a new database but a secure means of sharing images between existing agency systems. The ability to match a person’s photo against an image on one of their government records, to verify their identity and to share these images between agencies, will strengthen identity checking processes.
While existing measures such as the Document Verification Service (DVS) are helping to prevent the use of fake identity documents, criminals are now producing high quality fraudulent identity documents. These documents contain personal information stolen from innocent and unknowing victims, but with someone else’s photo – documents that would pass a DVS check.
Preventing this type of fraud can be assisted by greater use of biometrics, such as the FVS.
The Government is currently in negotiations with the states and territories to provide access to driver licence images via the FVS.
This will further help to prevent organised crime and terrorists from using fraudulent identities, while protecting everyday Australians from identity theft and making it easier to prove their identities when transacting with government online.
In addition a Face Identification Service (FIS) is expected to commence in 2017 to determine the identity of unknown persons. It will be used for investigations of more serious offences, with access restricted to a limited number of users in specialist areas.
Identity fraud is one of the most common crimes in Australia, costing around $2.2 billion per year according to the latest Identity Crime and Misuse in Australia 2016 report which I am also releasing today.
The report reveals that Australians are falling victim to identity criminals at a growing rate, with around 1 in 20 people experiencing financial losses resulting from identity crime each year.
The link between fraudulent identities and organised crime was clearly demonstrated by a recent multiagency data matching exercise, led by the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Centre hosted within the Australian Federal Police.
Project Birrie examined how 1,700 fraudulent identity items seized in one police operation were used to commit other crimes. These fraudulent identities were linked to outlaw motor cycle gang members, other high profile individuals involved in illicit drug investigations and a few individuals of interest to counter-terrorism operations. Also discovered was over $7 million in serious fraud and more than $50 million laundered offshore.The Identity Crime and Misuse in Australia 2016 report is somewhat more nuanced.