Biometrics new border guard by 2010

Government departments join war on ID fraud

The biometric data of each person entering Australia could be permanently stored in a central repository for identity verification and cross-checking between federal government departments, national and international anti-identity fraud efforts, and border control systems.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Australian Customs Service are all using biometrics for varying levels of identity management.

A DIAC spokesperson said the department will increase the use of biometrics for identification in the lead-up to 2010, when it expects to provide a single identity for DIAC clients "regardless of what business function is being undertaken".

Under its three-year identity management strategy, covered by the Migration Legislation Amendment (Identification and Authentication) Act of 2004 and the Privacy Act, DIAC will employ facial recognition, iris scanning, and fingerprinting to verify the identity of non-citizens entering Australia.

This information will be stored in the department's central Identity Services Repository, which will be complemented with an ID management toolkit, including high-integrity enrolment and registration systems, forensic document examination techniques, a specialist identity investigation capability, advanced name search software, and an online document verification system.

The expansion of the back-end biometric systems is designed to accommodate the additional biographical, travel, and biometric client data, and to improve data processing. Developing biometric projects have already been linked into existing DIAC systems.

According to DIAC, the technology is in a stage one roll-out to identify people taken into the detention centres in Maribyrnong, Villawood, and Perth. There are plans to be able to verify client identities against existing records.

"[The project goal] is to allow officers to access the department's databases to enable identity and eligibility verification checks to be conducted without the need to bring clients to a departmental facility," the spokesperson said.

"We are building the capacity to use facial-imaging and finger-scan biometrics to anchor identity in selected business processes according to risk, [allowing] checks to be made at each interaction with the department.

"[The project] also provides the department with a core biometric acquisition and matching solution for use in other business processes."

These processes include two separate projects to improve identification by accessing biometric images stored in both the Australian and New Zealand electronic passports.

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