The Australian government is investing heavily in a new biometric identification system aimed at cutting down on identity fraud. Called the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability, the system aims to use facial recognition with government-issued documents to verify citizens’ identities.
The system represents an $18.5 million investment, and the government’s aim is to have it up and running by the middle of 2016. The kind of fraud it aims to disrupt is currently relatively prevalent, with somewhere between 750,000 and 900,000 citizens having reported that they’ve been the victims of identity theft, according to a recent government report. The National Facial Biometric Matching Capability would use facial recognition technology to leverage the 100 million facial ID photos currently in government databases in seeking to authenticate the legitimacy of identity documents, potentially offering a powerful tool against identity fraud.
The development of this tool comes at a sensitive time, however. Over the past several months there has been ongoing debate in Australia over the government’s use of biometric identification technology, perhaps most notably in border security applications, and there may be a growing suspicion about such technologies among citizens. Nevertheless, the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability is an incremental step forward in this area; as Gizmodo points out, the system doesn’t expand government powers, it just enhances the government’s ability to police. Whether most Australians feel as sanguine about it should become apparent later next year.
September 9, 2015 – by Alex Perala