Australia's biometric database in disarray as contract suspended


The government’s national database would include facial recognition and was set to cost millions.

The federal government’s plan to build an upgraded national biometric database has been thrown into disarray, with the company contracted to work on the project suspended.

The $52 million contract with NES was won in 2016 to build the federal government’s Biometric Identification Service.

Marred by delays and a cost blow-out, the project was suspended in early June and is now subject to further contractual negotiations, according to industry website InnovationAus.

The Australian Criminal and Intelligence Commission told SBS News they would not comment on commercial matters.

NES was contracted to upgrade the federal government’s biometric database to include facial recognition and other new technologies.

In February this year the federal government introduced the Identity-Matching Services Bill into parliament, which would allow for the creation of a centralised national biometric database run by the Department of Home Affairs.

The national biometric database would come under the Department of Home Affairs.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

The legislation would enable states to share driver’s license photos with the federal government for the database.

Privacy rights advocates and bodies such as the Law Council of Australia have expressed their concerns about the project.

InnovationAus reported that the project has been running behind schedule and returning a high level of false positive responses, raising questions about its accuracy.

In the federal budget last month the project received an additional $92.4 million.

NES declined to comment on the reports. 

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