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    Your Face on Our Books: Australian Anti-Terror Drive Goes Biometric

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    It's emerged Australian authorities could allow photographs from social networking site Facebook to be added to its national counter-terrorism database for surveillance purposes. The National Facial Biometric Matching Capability will store images, allowing intelligence agencies and police officers to track suspected terrorists.

    Australia passed amendments to the Migration Amendment (Strengthening Biometrics Integrity) Bill 2015, allowing agencies to gather citizens' and non-Australian citizens' data at the border and within the country. The justice minister, Michael Keenan, said that the federal government would spend AU$18.5 million on developing the facial biometric matching capability.

    "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 does not involve new powers for the commonwealth; it's simply a mechanism to share existing information already held by jurisdictions," Keenen said.

    A recent article in the Guardian reveals details of a Senate meeting in which it was divulged that the 'Capability' database could incorporate photographs gleaned from social media sites. The Australian Greens senator, Scott Ludlam, asked the Senate:

    "Is there any law that would prevent the system from ingesting [photographs] from public available sources like social media sites?"

    The response from Andrew Rice, the assistant secretary of the department was:

    "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."

    The new system could extract driver's license and passport photographs to create a database of higher quality images than those gleaned from CCTV.

    Rice admitted that consultations will take place with privacy organizations — not members of the public. 

    Attorney general, George Brandis, also made a comment in the Senate that he was "not ware that it [implementation of the new powers] requires legislation."

    But while Australian authorities seek to access biometric images from social media, over the pond in Europe, the collection of swathes of personal data by Facebook and alleged transfer of data to the US National Security Agency (NSA) is under scrutiny and being investigated by the Irish High Court.

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    Tags:
    Safe Harbor agreement, terror suspects, photographs, crime, facial recognition, biometrics, CCTV cameras, criminals, social media, data collection, parliament, counterterrorism, surveillance, privacy, The Greens, Facebook, Mike Keenan, Australia
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