STATES PUSH AHEAD
Amidst coronavirus madness sweeping the world, both the Queensland and Western Australian government have been pushing ahead with plans sent back to the drawing board in November.
According to reports, Queensland will become the next state to share driver’s licence information with the federal government’s controversial national facial biometrics matching database.
No legislation has been drawn up yet, however the Department of Home Affairs said the sunshine state will become the next jurisdiction to upload data to the National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution (NDLFRS). The move follows similar plans happening in the West.
In Western Australia, the Transport Legislation Amendment (Identity Matching Services) Bill 2020 was recently pushed forward by WA Transport Minister, Rita Saffioti.
According to the Explanatory Memorandum, the government will hand all state driver’s license details over to the national database system, including photos, signatures and other details.
The legislation has been introduced into parliament to underpin the upload to the NDLFRS and it is currently at second reading. According to reading of the draft law:
“The purpose of this bill is to amend the Road Traffic (Administration) Act 2008, the Road Traffic (Authorisation to Drive) Act 2008 and the Western Australian Photo Card Act 2014 to give effect to an intergovernmental agreement on identity matching services.”
Other Australian states have already handed over license details to the national system.
In September 2019, the state of Victoria announced it would start uploading driver’s license photographs to the national database.
South Australia and Tasmania have also shared their details to the database. All states are expected to upload their information by September 2021.
At present, the NDLFRS includes 6 million licenses uploads and the database will collect “biometric templates created from facial images provided by states and territories centrally”.
The new moves from QLD and WA comes as a shock given recent controversy and rulings over the database. More on this below, but first, here is a brief overview of the system for those not familiar.
NATIONAL FACIAL RECOGNITION
In October 2017, Australian authorities announced the push for a tough overhaul of current ‘anti-terrorism’ laws at a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Canberra.
The announcement saw all states and territories agree to hand over driver’s licenses and passport photos for a national identification database, allowing for real-time facial recognition when matched to state CCTV footage — bypassing current restrictions on obtaining such information.
Government officials would establish new National Facial Biometric Matching Capability systems, and signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on Identity Matching Services to outline the changes.
Commenting on the new agreement, the Premier of Tasmania showed no reserve in support of the overhaul, declaring “we live in very uncertain times” and “this is the new world order”.
Plans to pass legislation permitting the use of national face-identity matching services has come under criticism by some of Australia’s largest privacy groups.
Australia’s leading privacy and civil liberties organisations condemned the decision, calling the facial recognition database ‘unnecessary’ and ‘fundamentally incompatible with a free and open society’.
Digital rights advocates branded the dramatic expansion of the government’s facial recognition capability as a “massive privacy overreach”, with concerns over security risks surrounding the implications on privacy. It would give birth to an Australian social credit system.
Critics of the plan have warned it could be used for mass surveillance, including CCTV systems being used to identify Australians going about their daily business in real time. This type of technology has already been activated on a localised level in Perth and Melbourne.
Why is this important? Because QLD and WA are pushing ahead with these plans despite the legislation being blocked and sent back to the drawing board in November.
Do the states know something that we do not know? Is the bill waiting for a second introduction?
Australians gained a sense of relief in November when the government’s suggested laws for federal facial biometrics matching system were postponed due to privacy and transparency concerns.
The nation’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security ordered the government back to the drawing board after rejecting plans to establish a national facial recognition database.
The committee took the unusual step of recommending the laws be completely overhauled, with a new regime set to be built around “privacy, transparency and subject to robust safeguards”.
Liberal MP and chair, Andrew Hastie, outlined the shortcomings of the legislation, saying that he had agreed with critics who submitted that the legislation lacked safeguards to ensure appropriate governance, accountability and protection of the individual’s right to privacy:
“The committee acknowledges these concerns and believes that while the bill’s explanatory memorandum sets out governance arrangements such as existing and contemplated agreements and access policy, they are not adequately set out in the current bill.
In the committee’s view, robust safeguards and appropriate oversight mechanisms should be explained clearly in the legislation.”
Despite the celebrations, members of the committee were united in recommending the bill be redrafted and then referred back for further inquiry when reintroduced.
We haven’t seen any update since, however states are all of a sudden pushing ahead with legislation to approve hand over to this database? Something is fishy and a second round of national debate is likely to be on the horizon in the near future if this is the case.
This plan is crucial to the Brave New World Order model, as it will enable authorities across Australia to use huge databases of facial images to determine the identity of an unknown person.
The potential for such a service to be used for mass or blanket surveillance is undeniable.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops. Check out previous coverage here.
Concerns raised over national facial recognition | TOTT News
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