Australian legislators are on course for passing laws enabling greater biometric securitization at the country’s borders. The new bill in question has just passed the country’s Senate and will now need to pass a vote in its House of Representatives before it becomes law.
The bill essentially strengthens the ability of border control authorities to collect biometric data from travelers entering and leaving the country. It will allow them to match facial, iris, and fingerprint data against criminal databases, but will also require that data to discard the data after scanning – in the case of adults. For children as young as ten, authorities will be allowed to collect biometric data without the need to obtain parental consent, and that data will be stored until the child turns 18.
The enhanced powers are meant as an aid in fighting terrorism, with additional potential benefits in managing rejected asylum seekers returning to the country under false identities. While some surveys have indicated that Australians have positive attitudes towards such increased security efforts after the occurrence of terrorist incidents, there has also been lively debate in the country about the civil rights issues involved in the government’s collection of biometric data, and in biometric data collection more broadly. This new bill, if it becomes law, seems unlikely to settle any such debate, though concerns from a parliamentary human rights committee did lead legislators to adopt language forbidding the collection of biometric data in an inhumane manner.
August 13, 2015 – by Alex Perala