Your Facebook Photos May Be Taken For Use In National Biometric Database


Images harvested from social media sites such as Facebook could be part of the latest counter-terrorism measures, the attorney general’s department has confirmed. ~ Shalailah Medhora

In September, the justice minister, Michael Keenan, announced that
the federal government would spend $18.5m to develop the national facial biometric matching capability, known simply as “the capability”.

Under questioning in Senate estimates on Tuesday night, senior
officials from the attorney general’s department said that photos could
be pulled from social media sites and used in the new system.

The Greens senator, Scott Ludlam, asked: “Is there any law that would
prevent the system from ingesting [photographs] from publicly available
sources like social media sites?”

Andrew Rice, the assistant secretary of the department, answered:
“It’s possible that still images out of these kinds of environments
could be put into the system. That would be a choice for the users of
the system.”

But he added that it could only happen if users of the capability,
such as police agencies, could legally draw on those sources at present.

“Making those choices will be on the basis of their existing legal permissions,” Rice said.

The proposal is for the new system to draw on official photos,
including driver’s licence and passport photos, to create a database.
Stills taken from CCTV and other sources are of lower quality and
therefore more likely to be inaccurate, Rice said.

The fine print of the new system is still being worked out. Privacy
impact assessments are expected to conclude in early 2016. The
threshold for what offences would necessitate the use of the capability
is also unclear.

“This is not something that would be available for broad usage within agencies,” Rice said.

The attorney general’s department has consulted with all state and
territory police agencies, as well as federal departments such as
immigration and foreign affairs and trade.

Consultations will also occur with privacy organisations, but not with members of the public, Rice said.

Ludlam expressed concern that the system was being handled “behind
the scenes” by security agencies and the attorney general’s department.

“We’re certainly looking at being very transparent about the use of the capability,” Rice replied.

Keenan said in September that the system would have strong privacy
safeguards. “The new capability will initially provide a one-to-one
image-based verification service among commonwealth agencies, with other
agencies expected to join over time,” he said.

“This process will expedite putting a name to the face of terror
suspects, murderers and armed robbers, and will also help to detect
fraud cases involving criminals that use multiple identities. This
initiative does not involve new powers for the commonwealth; it’s simply
a mechanism to share existing information already held by

The new powers do not need to go through parliament to be enacted.

“I’m not aware that it requires legislation,” the attorney general, George Brandis, told Senate estimates on Tuesday.



October 29, 2015 – KnowTheLies


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