Facial recognition, a Consumer Data Right and a delay in the review of the controversial encryption laws are among the federal government’s legislation plans for the remainder of 2019. 

The full agenda was revealed yesterday at the commencement of Australia’s 46th Parliament.

By the end of the year the government intends to introduce an “Identity-Matching Bill” to allow the Department of Home Affairs to “collect, use and disclose identification information to provide identity matching services that employ facial biometric matching, when used for the purposes of fraud prevention, law enforcement, national security and related purposes”. 

A separate bill also outlined in the 2019 agenda would see a similar capability extended to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the purposes of passport data matching.

The bills had been proposed in 2018 following an agreement from state and territory governments to establish a joint Identity Matching Service. However they were referred to parliamentary committees for inquiry, including a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which eventually lapsed. The committees had found several faults in the system and recommended more transparency around the technology being used. 

Based on the previous bills, government, agencies and law enforcement would have new identity matching powers and access to a hub connecting data records across jurisdictions. The government says the system is not intended for mass surveillance.

Encryption laws review delay

One amendment will seek to extend the reporting deadline for an inquiry into the government’s controversial encryption busting laws, introduced in late 2018. The new powers were rebuked by the tech community over fears it would infringe on people’s privacy and damage the local technology market.

The enabling legislation has been passed and powers are already in use but a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is currently reviewing amendments. The government says it will grant the committee’s request for more time. The deadline has been extended from April to June 2020.

Consumer Data Right

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Consumer Data Right) Bill is expected to be among some of the first legislation introduced by the government after it failed to present it in 2018. The bill will allow consumers to access some of their data, or request third parties do so on their behalf, held by companies, which were previously under no obligation to share data. The scheme is designed to improve data ownership and portability, consequently improving innovation and competition.

The CDR underpins Australia’s new Open Banking Regime which had a delayed start this week in the absence of the legislation. Regulators have said the legislation is needed before the phase of Open Banking involving consumer data begins in February next year.

After banking it is expected to be extended to other industries, with the government having already flagged energy and telecommunications.

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