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Audit Recommends Review of DIAC's Biometric Capabilities

by Staff Writers •
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Broadening of DIAC's biometric capabilities is recommended to secure Australia's borders in a report by the Australian National Audit Office titled DIAC's Management of the Introduction of Biometric Technologies. The report suggests that the Department's current biometric capability may be too narrow to enable Australia to maximise potential for interoperability with overseas countries.

Total funding for DIAC's biometrics initiatives amounts to more than $83m over the years from 2003-04 to 2009-10.

The ANAO report found that DIAC's introduction of biometric technologies has been challenging given the rapidly evolving nature of the technologies involved and the dynamic international environment. The report also found that the biometrics systems have had to adapt to substantial internal systems changes within DIAC that have resulted in delays in the delivery of planned biometrics capabilities.

The report states that because of DIAC's focus on facial imaging as its primary biometric technology, Australia may risk being left behind because other countries, particularly USA and UK, have implemented multi-modal systems involving both facial images and fingerprints. The report suggests that DIAC's reliance on facial imaging "raises the risk that it will not be in a position to benefit fully from the international developments tending towards a broader use of fingerprints, particularly in enabling effective matching for watch-list and other identification purposes."

2004 legislation that gave DIAC a mandate to research, trial and implement biometric options, is due to be reviewed during 2008. The Audit report made a number of recommendations for that review.

Following release of the Audit Report, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, confirmed that increased use of biometrics will play an important role in protecting Australia’s borders. He also defended the Department, saying that DIAC currently uses two biometrics – facial images and finger scans. "These biometrics are being progressively rolled out to various immigration processes, including visa applications. They are also used to identify people in immigration detention and illegal foreign fishers," he said.

In August 2006, Unisys was awarded a contract for the roll out of facial recognition and fingerprint scanning to authenticate identities at immigration detention centres, a three-year, $1.1 million contract. This contract is due to continue until August 2009.

Last week, DIAC reported two new contracts with Unisys worth a total of $3.84m for Project Management Services related to "Biometrics and Identity Management Project" and "Citizenship and Identity Management Project".

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