Civil rights groups have warned a vast, powerful system allowing the near real-time matching of citizens’ facial images risks a “profound chilling effect” on protest and dissent.
The technology – known in shorthand as “the capability” – collects and pools facial imagery from various state and federal government sources, including driver’s licences, passports and visas.
The biometric information can then rapidly – almost in real time – be compared with other sources, such as CCTV footage, to match identities.
The system, chiefly controlled by the federal Department of Home Affairs, is designed to give intelligence and security agencies a powerful tool to deter identity crime, and quickly identify terror and crime suspects.
But it has prompted serious concern among academics, human rights groups and privacy experts. The system sweeps up and processes citizens’ sensitive biometric information regardless of whether they have committed or are suspected of an offence.