Australia funds national face recognition capability

Govt funds $18.5m Aussie facial recognition database (iTnews)

It will allow law enforcement agencies to share citizens’ facial images to identify unknown individuals and verify identities.

The ‘national facial biometric matching capability’ will match a facial photograph to images on passports, visas and driver’s licences, and will initially offer functionality to match the identities of known individuals. It will later be able to match unknown individuals, the AGD said last month.

It will be targeted towards identity theft, fraudulent identity documents and “other serious criminal activity”, AGD said.

Australia gearing up for huge biometrics tender

CrimTrac to extend national biometric identification database (The Financial Review)

CrimTrac, the federal biometric information repository, wants more freedom to flexibly access other databases, such as national location data, as the national broadband program gradually progresses towards a fully functional, nationally available high-speed data network.

It is looking for a specialist information technology supplier to tool up a more flexible, versatile operating installation which can incorporate a range of new techniques as they become available, and can cope with the ever-spreading list of mobile devices being deployed in the field by policing agencies.

Australia: “Foreign fighters” bill invites debate

Opposition grows to storage of photo and biometric data (Sydney Morning Herald)

The legislation specifically clears the way for all Australians as well as foreigners to be photographed when they leave Australia and when they return if they go through automated passport gates – which are set to become far more commonly used.

The department estimates that between 40 and 60 per cent of the 35 million travellers leaving and entering Australia each year would be photographed, many millions of them Australians.

The department can also share the biometric information for “specified purposes” according to the bill’s explanatory memoranda, though it does not explain what these purposes are.

“Critics say the danger of such information being hacked is profound, given many personal electronic devices are now secured by fingerprints and iris scans.”

A couple of points that we’ve made before come to mind here.

First, if the government of Australia is incapable of keeping citizen information secure from hackers, is the biometric information of international travellers really a top-order concern? Surely, the government already secures information that is much more valuable to hackers than that.

Second, passports are interesting in that they aren’t just ID’s. They’re also an interoperability technology, a way two governments facilitate their agreement related to the treatment of civilian citizens traveling abroad. They only work unless there’s a government on both sides of the equation and any government on its site of the border can collect just about whatever information it desires as a condition of allowing a non-citizen entry into its territory.

Even if Australians reject the “foreign fighters” bill, they will still be subject to the information requested of them by the countries they visit, and that information can be shared back with Australia on a government-to-government basis.

With globalization and the lowering of cultural boundaries among the international travel set, it can seem like international travel is no big deal. Brussels is, in many ways, a lot like Washington, DC. But international travel is not without security risks to the visited country and international travelers should always be aware that their legal status outside their home country is very different than it is at home.

Smartgates and the tightening of UK & Australia borders

AUSTRALIA: ‘Foreign fighter’ laws leave door open on biometric data collection (Computerworld)

The government’s second tranche of national security legislation, the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014, includes measures that potentially allow a significant increase in the types of biometric data collected at Australian airports.

Provisions in the bill also extend to Australian travellers data collection practices that have previously been confined to non-citizens.



UK: New biometric border controls at Stansted Airport at heart of terrorism fight (Herts and Essex Observer)

“We are using resources and intelligence to ensure the border is as strong as we can make it.”

He said the Government was also committed to tackling the problem of those travelling from the UK to the Middle East to join the IS jihadists and a new counter-terrorism Bill was set to include measure to temporarily remove the passports of those suspected of being radicalised and ready to fight abroad.

Big news from Australia

Everyone entering Australia to have biometric data scanned (Australia Forum)

A $700 million update to Australia’s border management system will mean that everyone entering the country will have their data scanned and matched against a biometrics database.

Australia is well suited to give this a good chance of working. You can’t drive there, or walk there, and their stringent agricultural controls and efforts to keep rabies out means that they’re already used to being pretty careful at points of entry.

Biometric Australian Parole Officers?

In 2014, Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) will be deploying the Argus’ Biometric Offender Reporting Information System (B.O.R.I.S) across all community monitoring offices and selected Police stations. (Biometrics Institute)

See also: Biometric British Parole Officers?

Neither deployment replaces human judgement of how to deal with criminal justice issues, rather they attempt to reduce the bureaucratic burdens on professional staff of ID verification.

Better training leads to better face recognition

AUSTRALIA: Crims outed by Vic cops’ facial recognition system

Key to the accuracy of the system was the composition of photos according to strict positioning criteria.

Victoria Police senior sergeant Cameron Tullberg said the quality of suspect photographs had degraded over decades.

At a recent police technology conference in Melbourne, Sgt Tullberg showed fellow officers recent photographs of such low quality that identification of suspects was almost impossible. In one photo an entire face was cropped out.

He said the requirements had been “turned all the way up”, forcing police officers to properly compose a photo before it would be accepted by the system.

We have often made the point that facial recognition systems are best used by skilled operators. Their operation is far more complex than, say, fingerprint systems. This story from Australia draws attention to the fact that sensitivity to facial recognition “best practices” on the front end (data-gathering phase) leads to better matching down the road.

Australia changes privacy law regarding criminal investigations

Federal Government removes ban on biometric data used for crime-fighting

The Gillard Government’s new privacy legislation has removed the ban on biometric data being handed to crime-fighting agencies.

Officials say the move could be of immense benefit in fighting crime, but privacy lobbyists liken it to a “Big Brother” development.

The Attorney-General’s Department yesterday revealed police would be able to ask private companies – including shops, pubs and clubs – to hand over patrons’ facial scans.

“These changes will allow, for example, a pub to pass on to police a face scan of someone involved in a glassing attack,” a spokeswoman said.

“Or, police could ask a government agency to help them identify an alleged murderer through matching an image obtained via CCTV (closed circuit television) with client photos.”

Note: “Facial scan” is another term for “Photo.”

If the police can’t ask for evidence helpful in solving a crime, why have police (or privately owned CCTV cameras) in the first place?

Biometric technology, like all analytic tools, works both ways. It can eliminate suspects as well as indicting them.

Is the Five Country Conference hitting its stride on ID?

The US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand (Five Country Conference) share information, including biometrics, on foreign visitors. Reading between the lines of the article linked below, they appear to hitting their stride.

Biometrics has “just completely changed the way we do business,” DHS director of US-VISIT. (Fierce Homeland Security)

See also:
Privacy Impact Assessment for the US-VISIT Five Country Joint Enrollment and Information-Sharing Project (2009 pdf at DHS.gov)

Australia to test drive ABIS developed for US by Northrop Grumman

Australia to test biometric system (UPI)

Australia’s Defense Department has received a trial proof of concept for an automated biometric information system from Northrop Grumman.

The proof of concept, modeled after the U.S. Department of Defense Automated Biometric Identification System, will be used to produce biometrically enabled intelligence.

Challenge!

Theft of fingerprints easier than cutting off a finger, security experts warn (News.com.au)

Associate Professor of math and geospatial sciences at RMIT University, Dr Asha Rao told News Ltd that a cyber criminal wouldn’t need your finger or retina in order to steal the stored data.

”When you watch political or forensic dramas, they show you the fingerprint but that’s not really what is stored as it would take too much time to cross reference,” Dr Rao said.

”To complete the biometric scans you don’t need my finger, you need the hash of the biodata.”

A hash is like an algorithm or template that can be used to decode your data. ”If you steal the template, then you’ve basically lost your fingerprint,” she said.

”It’s actually easier to break than cutting off people’s fingers.”

Oh, yeah?
Challenge!

Step one.Have the experts in question turn this into a fingerprint. Yes, it is a real fingerprint template; no hacking required.

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 

Step two.Have the experts in question cut off someone’s finger.

Step three.Have them explain which task they’d rather repeat.

“You want a toe?”



[I’ll bet both tasks are much more difficult either from a technical or humane point of view than stealing and using a password. I assume that’s why they are hackers instead of, well, you know – “hackers.” And while, at least according to Walter Sobchak, “I can get you a toe,” fingers are a little harder to come by. After all, people are going to need them to get at their cash.]




Bonus:Explain why any of this should cause any of the reported 79 per cent of Australians who would be comfortable using fingerprint biometrics to verify identity to change their mind (background here & here).

Australia: More on survey of attitudes toward banking biometrics

Following yesterday’s post “Customers Embrace ‘Controversial’ Technology,” comes more detailed information about the survey behind the article.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group : No cash, no worries your fingerprint will do, new survey reveals (Press Release at 4-traders)

No cash, no worries your fingerprint will do, new survey reveals

Seventy-nine per cent of Australians said they would be comfortable with fingerprint technology one day replacing their banking PIN and more than one third of Australians would prefer to live in a cashless world according to a new survey released today.1 The Newspoll survey commissioned by ANZ also found Baby Boomers are giving younger generations a run for their money, with nearly three quarters of those aged 50-64 more likely to use digital technology over a bank branch for day-to-day banking transactions.

Australians have adopted digital habits for most of their banking needs and will increasingly look to technology to make their financial lives easier in the future, with the survey finding:

• Not surprisingly 88 per cent of people aged 18 – 34 prefer to use digital technology over a bank branch for day-to-day transactions but their Mums and Dads weren’t far behind at 75 per cent;

• 38 per cent of Australians would prefer to live in a world where they didn’t need to carry cash;

• 40 per cent of people even accepted the idea of one day outsourcing their finances to a digital personal assistant – an intelligent computer program which makes financial decisions and moves money between accounts on your behalf;

• 49 per cent of 18 -34 year olds like the idea of a digital personal assistant but

with only 30 per cent of Baby Boomers indicating they would be likely to use the technology;

• 67 per cent of Australians would be comfortable using a machine that scans your eye to verify identification in place of a pin; and

• 73 per cent of people find it inconvenient when small businesses don’t accept cards and only cash, with 82 per cent of 18-34 year olds finding cash only policies the most frustrating. There’s more in the press release at the link. See also: ANZ rolls out new customer-facing tech (itnews)

Customers Embrace “Controversial” Technology

Fingerprints the new ATM PINs (The Daily Telegraph – Australia)

The bank has revealed it will explore introducing controversial technology that stores biometric data, replacing the need for PINs, after research suggested customers were willing to embrace it. [emphasis mine]

What percentage of people must embrace something before it ceases to be “controversial”? The article’s implicit answer is “more than 79%.”

The article is only five sentences long, so I’m not cherry-picking an odd sentence from a long article. The whole set of the article’s facts is that a bank’s study found that a Pareto of people are totally OK with fingerprint biometrics, which pretty much means that they’re the opposite of controversial.

Australia: ID Scanners in Night Spots

Nightclub scanners spark security concerns (Yahoo Australia)

There are a growing number of calls for the Australian Privacy Commissioner to take action over identity scanners in pubs and clubs.

Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim says his office is receiving an increasing number of complaints about the use of scanners in licensed venues, and that their use is boosting the risk of identity crime.

But the Australian Privacy Foundation says the commissioner is doing little to tackle the problem.

It certainly seems like there’s a better way to do what the business establishments want to do with less identity theft risk.

Storing all of the information on an ID card is overkill. Using facial recognition, an adequately rigorous system storing just a name and a face — information insufficient for identity theft — could be implemented, though it would be slightly more expensive, and entail a bit more police work on the back end (in the event that the record was needed for law enforcement purposes). A name and a face, however, are pretty good jumping-off points for police, especially if facial recognition tools are available to be applied to government ID databases.

If the perceived risk of nightclub ID scans comes from identity thieves, facial recognition biometrics can lower that risk.

You say you want a revolution?

Australia: Customs eyes tech future beyond SmartGate (IT News)

The service issued a request for information (RFI) seeking solutions that “do not rely [on] simply implementing more of the current technology and associated traveller processing infrastructure”

Broad options sought by the RFI cover solutions to automate traveller border processing, verify biometric identity, supply traveller information, reduce queues, perform behavioural assessments, and offer “non-intrusive traveller concealment detection”.

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