Face Matching Services

On 5 October 2017, the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders agreed to establish a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability and signed an Intergovernmental Agreement on Identity Matching Services. This will make it easier for security and law enforcement agencies to identify suspects or victims of terrorist or other criminal activity, and help to protect Australians from identity crime.

Under the agreement, agencies in all jurisdictions will be able to use the new face matching services to access passport, visa, citizenship, and driver licence images while maintaining robust privacy safeguards.

The Face Verification Service (FVS) is a one-to-one, image-based verification service that can match a person’s photo against an image on one of their government records (such as a passport photo) to help verify their identity. Often these transactions will occur with the individual’s consent.

The Face Identification Service (FIS) is a one-to-many, image-based identification service that can match a photo of an unknown person against multiple government records to help establish their identity. Access to the FIS will be limited to police and security agencies, or specialist fraud prevention areas within agencies that issue passports, and immigration and citizenship documents.

The FVS is now operational, providing access to passport, immigration and citizenship images. The FIS will come online (for Commonwealth images in the first instance) in early 2018.

Access to driver licence images will be facilitated through a national database, hosted by the Commonwealth. It will begin operating in a staged implementation, from mid-2018. This system will support additional face matching services to help improve the integrity of driver licence data holdings.

Find out more in the following fact sheet:

Privacy safeguards

The Face Matching Services have robust privacy safeguards, informed by independent privacy impact assessments (PIAs) conducted throughout the design and implementation phases.

On 16 December 2015, the Minister for Justice released the preliminary PIA on the hub and spoke design of the system. The assessment identified a series of recommendations which the department has accepted either in whole or in part.

A further independent PIA on initial use of the FVS is now complete.

FVS Access Policy and interagency arrangements

Agencies participating in the FVS must enter into formal interagency data sharing arrangements (IDSAs). The IDSAs set out the terms and conditions on which entities will share identity information and comply with privacy safeguards in accordance with their obligations under the FVS Access Policy.

FVS IDSAs are in place between DIBP and DFAT, and the AFP. A template IDSA is provided here to demonstrate the terms and conditions, including privacy safeguards, which are built in to the agreements.

Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) are also in place between the Department of Home Affairs and each participating agency to outline the terms on which they access the hub that supports the FVS. The following MoU templates form the basis for these arrangements between Commonwealth entities.