Debate begins on facial recognition laws

Karen Sweeney
(Australian Associated Press)


Government agencies, banks and phone companies could use facial recognition to identify customers under new laws being put forward by the federal government.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says proposed identity matching services laws were agreed in a meeting of state and territory leaders with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in October.

Drivers licence photos and data would be stored by the Department of Home Affairs for the purpose of identifying Australians, while passport laws are also proposed to be amended to allow the use of that data too.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says passport data would be shared for national security purposes and would allow agencies to detect fraud or security concerns in real time.

“(These services) will help protect Australians by making it easier for security and law enforcement agencies to identify people who are suspects or victims of terrorist or other criminal activity while maintaining privacy safeguards,” she said.

It would be particularly important for protecting Australians at large-scale events like the upcoming Commonwealth Games, she said.

Under the overarching identity matching legislation certain information including political opinions and religious beliefs would be excluded from data collection, Mr Dutton said.

“This is to ensure the department may only collect and use and disclose those types of information that are reasonably necessary in order to provide the identity matching services,” Mr Dutton told parliament on Wednesday.

The service would initially be used by the public sector, but later be rolled out to private services including banks and phone companies, but only with the consent of the person whose identity is being verified.

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