​NEC Australia wins AU$52m CrimTrac biometric contract

NEC Australia has been contracted by the federal government to develop the new Biometric Identification System that will give law enforcement agencies access to fingerprints, palm prints, and facial images.

Australia's peak law-enforcement technology agency CrimTrac has awarded NEC Australia a AU$52 million contract to replace the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) in 2017.

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Counter Terrorism Michael Keenan said the new platform will give law enforcement agencies access to not only fingerprints, but also palm prints and facial images.

The NAFIS currently only provides police agencies with access to fingerprint data.

Keenan said the new platform will allow police the ability to undertake facial recognition matching with approximately 12 million existing images that are currently held in police databases nationally.

"The Biometric Identification System (BIS) will not only integrate with existing law enforcement systems, but advance as our nation's biometric capability advances," Keenan said in a statement.

"This is vital in the current national security landscape, because it is essential to have robust and efficient cross-border information sharing to support the law enforcement agencies that protect our communities.

"It's also vital our authorities are one step ahead of the sophistication of organised criminal syndicates who are adopting new and advanced technologies to exploit Australians and increase the misery they peddle."

CrimTrac launched a tender to upgrade its fingerprint biometric identity system in June last year.

The federal government allocated AU$700,000 to CrimTrac as part of Budget 2015 for the development of the new system.

The federal government also announced last year it would spend AU$18.5 million to establish the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability for use by law-enforcement and government agencies from mid-2016.

The biometrics capability will allow government agencies to match facial images on identity documents with images held by law enforcements, which Keenan said would help "strengthen identity-checking processes".

"This process will expedite putting a name to the face of terror suspects, murderers, and armed robbers, and will also help to detect fraud cases involving criminals that use multiple identities," he said.

"While Australians are rapidly embracing new technologies and new capabilities, they also expect authorities to advance cybersecurity and online safety efforts."

The Attorney-General's Department had previously said the capability was designed to replace manual facial image sharing arrangements between departments and agencies, with the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Department of Defence, and the AGD under the auspices of AusCheck the first to gain access to the system.

Northern Territory Police also announced a partnership with NEC Australia in September to integrate facial-recognition technology for its database of photographs, CCTV footage, and videos taken from phones, body-worn cameras, and drones; and in December, the AGD agreed to 16 recommendations made in a preliminary assessment to establish a National Facial Biometric Matching Capability in mid-2016.

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