Law enforcement and government agencies will soon find it easier to identify persons of interest, with the ability to search millions of facial images of Australians culled from driver’s licenses, visas and passports. Australia’s Minister for Justice Michael Keenan announced A$18.5 million would be spent to establish the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability (NFBMC). In a statement, he called it the country’s “newest national security weapon.” From mid-2016, the program will allow certain agencies and police to “share and match” photographs of Australians held in existing databases.
Facial recognition computer systems are a way of automatically identifying a person from a digital image, most often by comparing the unique features of their face in the image — shape of the eyes, nose or jaw, for example — with a facial database.
There are around 100 million facial images stored nationwide. Keenan said the NFBMC would allow law enforcement to “expedite putting a name to the face of terror suspects, murderers and armed robbers.” He also suggested the capability was needed to address the increasingly problematic issue of identity theft. A report prepared by the Attorney-General’s Department and released in 2015 said that more than 50,000 fraud and deception offences in fiscal year 2013–14 involved identity crime.