An official assessment has been conducted on plans to use digital facial recognition as a form of identity check for government agencies.

The Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) facial recognition plans gave the system an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter-Terrorism, Michael Keenan, unveiled the PIA on the ‘National Facial Biometric Matching Capability’ this week.

He said the system would help government agencies combat identity crime, organised crime and terrorism.

“It enables law enforcement and selected Government Agencies to share and match photographs on identity documents, such as passports, to strengthen identity-checking processes, while maintaining strong privacy safeguards,” Mr Keenan said.

He said the increased capability was one a recommendation in last year’s Martin Place Siege: Joint Commonwealth – New South Wales Review.

“This review recommended greater use of biometrics to address vulnerabilities in current name-based identity checking arrangements that can enable people to use multiple identities when dealing with Government Agencies,” Mr Keenan said.

“The framework operates within Commonwealth, State and Territory privacy legislation, and promotes the highest standards of privacy protection for biometric uses by encouraging Agencies to maintain strong privacy, security and other safeguards.”

The independent PIA has backed the “hub and spoke” design of the system, Keenan says, which will soon allow Agencies to share facial images from existing holdings, without a centralised database.

He said that all the PIA’s recommendations would be accepted, and that the system should begin operations in mid-2016.

More details are available here.