Friday, October 30, 2015

Facebook photos could be taken for use in national biometric database – officials

Images harvested from social media sites such as Facebook could be part of the latest counter-terrorism measures, the attorney general’s department has confirmed.

In September, the justice minister, Michael Keenan, announced that the federal government would spend $18.5m to develop the national facial biometric matching capability, known simply as “the capability”.

Under questioning in Senate estimates on Tuesday night, senior officials from the attorney general’s department said that photos could be pulled from social media sites and used in the new system.

The Greens senator, Scott Ludlam, asked: “Is there any law that would prevent the system from ingesting [photographs] from publicly available sources like social media sites?”

Andrew Rice, the assistant secretary of the department, answered: “It’s possible that still images out of these kinds of environments could be put into the system. That would be a choice for the users of the system.”

But he added that it could only happen if users of the capability, such as police agencies, could legally draw on those sources at present.

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