Government embracing biometrics to battle fraud

The Australian government is moving towards greater use of biometrics to prevent identity theft which costs $1.1 billion annually, the federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock said today.

Addressing the Biometrics Institute's annual conference in Sydney, Ruddock said the Council of Australian Governments has agreed to investigate how biometric security measures could be adopted by all the state's and territories.

This is part of the National Identity Security Strategy which aims to strengthen existing identity processes and to make sure procedures are consistent across the country.

It supports the establishment of a national $28.3 million Document Verification Service announced in the recent Federal Budget. "We need to beat criminals at their own game and biometric identification can help us do this," Ruddock said.

And while everyone has a right to privacy, Ruddock said, "There can be no greater invasion of a person's privacy than the theft of their identity". He said one challenge with biometric use is the lack of consistent standards.

"Closed and proprietary biometric solutions mean that standards are developing in different ways and there is a lack of interoperability across government agencies," Ruddock said.

"This is inefficient and creates increased cost; this is an issue we will examine in the development of the Australian Government Biometrics Framework."

Initiatives currently being undertaken by the government include the introduction of a Human Services smartcard - called Access Card, the use of e-Passports and an automated border processing system known as SmartGate at Australian airports.

SmartGate, which is a face recognition system for border control, will be introduced in Australian international airports next year. w

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