The Capability: Government’s national facial recognition plan raises privacy concerns

The Government is planning to spend $18.5 million setting up the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability, known as The Capability.

A Government-commissioned assessment has warned it could collect more information than necessary and there is a risk it will not do enough to protect data.

The Capability will give law enforcement and security agencies quick access to up to 100 million facial images from databases around Australia, including drivers’ licences, passport photos, and perhaps even Facebook photos.

The photos will be coordinated through a system called The Hub that will help agencies quickly identify people and tackle cross-border crime.

Privacy activists, such as Australian Privacy Foundation vice-chair David Vaile, are concerned.

“Biometrics, unlike any other form of identification, is tied to your biological existence, which has some benefits for its use as an identifier but it has the great downside that if something goes wrong, if it’s breached, if it’s hacked, it can’t be revoked,” Mr Vaile said.

“It’s not like cutting up a credit card or getting a new phone number or something.

“Basically if anybody manages to get this, they breach the security, potentially you’re compromised for life.”


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