Should Australia adopt biometrics identification?

Picture showing multi biometric Image: News Aktuell, Flicker, All rights reserved

The past few decades had manifested the emerging of a new internet era and the revolution that the internet has brought to the everyday life of people. However, with the new technology being developed and having more control over people’s lives, the issues of privacy protection and data security were widely discussed.


In this essay, the importance of biometric identification in the present day will be demonstrated and the argument of whether Australia should adopt biometric identification will be discussed by referring to the biometric ID project Aadhaarin India.


Importance of biometric identification

Biometric system is a pattern recognition system that is capable of matching discriminatory features of acquired image with the existing images in the database. Based on the system, biometric identification was developed to recognize the user by comparing the biometric feature to all the signatures they recorded in the database without identity claim from the user (Unar, Seng & Abbasi ,2014).


Source, Advanced Recognition Systems: A Look Inside Biometric Identification Technology, Video: NEC America, Some rights reserved


Under the high security demands of the current society, biometric identification as an advanced technology is contributing to the national security. Although being questioned by its reliability and its privacy violation to the citizens, it is undeniable that it has great potential in detection and prevention of illegal activities, especially in relation to the individual use of multiple identities (Unar, Seng & Abbasi ,2014).


More importantly, comparing to the traditional legacy paper system for national identity documentation, the new digital form of identity system will be more powerful and efficient in collecting, storing and sorting the information. Also, the link between digital identity and biometrics would create a brand-new, powerful ecosystem for national and international identity information (Dixon, 2016).


A brief history and a case study in India

The concept of biometrics had been changing over time (Nair, 2018). The term was origin from Greek, meaning ‘the recognizing of humans on the basis of intrinsic physical or behaviour’. In the twentieth century, the term was associated with the statistical science of biological data (Nair, 2018).Detached from the traditional term of biometrics, the contemporary concept of digital biometric identification came from eugenics in 19th century, anthropometry in the colonial times and European policing systems. Today, it became one of the significant practices in personal identification, especially for the postcolonial countries such as India, to build their own identification system (Nair, 2018).Thus, in order to solve the problem of postcolonial national identification and build their own culture and social system, a biometric scheme Aadhaar was launched by the Unique Identification Authority of India(UIDAI) in 2009.


Image: Arshad Ali, DNA India, All rights reserved
Picture showing fingerprint scans

Image: Arshad Ali, DNA India, All rights reserved


This scheme was aimed toallocate an Aadhaar card with a 12-digit identity cation number to over 1.2 billion people in India by using biometric information, using one single identity to access the online and offline government and welfare system easier. Through securing their rights as citizen, enrollees with varied needs would be protected by the social welfare system. Moreover, it fixed the problem for those who lack of their identifier such as a birth certificate to regain access to previously inaccessible services like bank accounts (Bhatia & Bhabha,2017).More specifically, it ensures inclusive social protection through biometric identity cation (Bhatia & Bhabha,2017).

Overall, the biometric identification system not only offering the objectification of Indian’s postcolonial identity, but also contributing to e-governance and provision of service(Nair, 2018).


Should Australia adopt biometric identification?

In recent years, the government has pushed forward some biometric system implements in Australia. As Mashable Australia article notes, 18.5 million would be spent on establishing the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability (NFBMC), which will give certain government institutions the power to collect millions of facial images of Australians from driver’s licenses, visas and passports (Bogle, 2015). The adopt of biometrics technologies in identification system has precipitated a vigorous debate between people taking with different stances about the reasonable limits of privacy and cybersecurity (Liu, 2012).


While India failed to legislate the data protection and privacy law, the advantages of Australia to implement a privacy policy with support of advanced cyber security technologies was quite obvious (Dixon, 2016). For example, the anonymity principle in Australia will offer a useful basis of privacy protection on biometric information (Liu, 2012). In my perspective, Australia should adopt biometric identification system. Nevertheless, the challenges of adopting such a new system still need to be considered.


Two Challenges

On the one hand, one of the biggest concern of those who against the implement of biometric identification in Australia is about the data security (Liu, 2012). Although within building process of this nationalbiometric identification, government would have the biggest control over these biometric data, however, the data security is not strongly guaranteed even with the national level protection. For example, a news reporter from The Hindu last year exposed a scandal that more than 200 central and state government in India displayed the private data of the Aadhaar beneficiaries on their official websites (“210 government websites”, 2017). Apart from this, according to a report conducted by Herjavec Group, a global information security advisory company, the cyber security job crisis is going on globally (Cybersecurity Ventures, 2018). More specifically, The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) predicted that India will have a gap of 1 million cybersecurity skilled workforce by 2020 to meet the requirement of its growing economy(Cybersecurity Ventures, 2018). Thus, the issue of data security would be a great challenge if Australia have its own biometric identification system.


Picture showing hacking tutorial in a video website

Image: DOUGLAS BRYANT, Flickr, All rights reserved


On the other hand, Australian’s rights of privacy would be another issue to be considered (Liu, 2012). Specifically, questions of what is done with the data, how long will they stored in the system, who will have the access to them and where does the government keep them were constantly being asked by people (Unar, Seng & Abbasi ,2014). Also, the danger of state surveillance has become a significant concern due to the high level of political policing nature of the biometric identification system (Goldenfein, 2018). Noticeably, due to the severity of terrorism today, the growing fear of terrorists was pushing people to trade away their privacy for anti-terrorism reasons (Berg, 2015). In this case, national security seems to be much more important than the rights of personal privacy.



Picture showing people under surveillance

Image: blankshoegazing, Flickr, All rights reserved


Otherwise, the privacy protection available in Australia law is still insufficient to respond the legal questions in relation to the use of biometric information. For example, several provisions in the Privacy Act 1988 and the Biometrics Institute Privacy Code are inconsistent, confusing and unclear (Liu, 2012).Despite this, the transparency of how the government deal with the biometric data and the privacy policy implement of the government would be seen as the key to resolve the privacy concern of people (Arun, 2017).



On the bright side, the implement of biometric system would contribute to the detection and prevention of terrorism and identity fraud, and also provide protection of national security and protective security (Goldenfein, 2018). For example, using predictive technologies to identify suspects or policing of activist communities and public spaces (Goldenfein, 2018). According to a 2015 report conducted by the Attorney-General’s Department, more than 50,000 fraud and deception offences in 2013–14 was identity crime (Bogle, 2015). Moreover, the increasingly issue of identity theft is causing public attention about cyber security in recent years, which causing a significant loss in private property of people and it need to be resolved as soon as possible (Bogle, 2015). Under this circumstance, the biometric identification system like NFBMC would assist with government law institution and police to speed up the process of matching a name to the face of the terrorists or suspects of illegal activities (Bogle, 2015).



Picture showing criminal facial identification technology

Images: Jerry Smith, Flicker, All rights reserved


Moreover, the new system would provide the citizens a more convenient access to social services. For instance, the Digital India Programme has proved to be successful in fighting against corruption, promoting financial inclusion of the poor, bringing financial accountability as well as providing digital convenience and accessibility to Indian people (Arun, 2017). In relation to the biometrics scanning programme in Australia, through scanning iris, face and fingerprint of the travellers in airports, a government project Seamless Traveler was expected to reduce manual processes and create quick, seamless self-processing experience for at least 90 per cent of tourists and travellers (Koziol, 2017).


In conclusion, though the biometric identification is an inevitable trend in the digital era, the appropriate and acceptable level of biometric data use by the government need to be fully discussed. More importantly, policy and legislation on biometric privacy ought to be improved in order to create a well-functioned environment in biometric industry. Thus, Australia should consider the challenges of data security and privacy protection brought by this technology innovation before the implementation of biometric identification system.




Hypertextual short essay reference List

210 govt. websites made Aadhaar details public: UIDAI. (2017, Nov 19). The Hindu.Retrieved from


Arun, P. (2017). Uncertainty and Insecurity in Privacyless India: A Despotic Push towards Digitalisation. Surveillance & Society, 15(3/4), 456-464. doi:10.24908/ss.v15i3/4.6618


Berg, C. (2015, Feb 24). Retain our privacy, not our data. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved from,-not-our-data/6242146


Bhatia, A., & Bhabha, J. (2017). India’s Aadhaar scheme and the promise of inclusive social protection. Oxford Development Studies, 45(1), 64. doi:10.1080/13600818.2016.1263726


Bogle, A. (2015, Sep1). Facial recognition technology is Australia’s latest ‘national security weapon’. Mashable Australia. Retrieved from


Cybersecurity Ventures. (2018). Cybersecurity Jobs Report 2018-2021.Commissioned by Herjavec Group. Retrieved from


Goldenfein, J. (2018, Mar 6). Close up: the government’s facial recognition plan could reveal more than just your identity. The Conversation. Retrieved from


Koziol, M. (2017, Jan 20). ‘World first’: Government moves to radically overhaul Australia’s international airports. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from


Liu, N. Y. (2012). Bio-privacy: privacy regulations and the challenge of biometrics. Oxon [England]: Routledge.


Nair, V. (2018). An eye for an I: recording biometrics and reconsidering identity in postcolonial India. Contemporary South Asia, 26(2), 143-156. doi:10.1080/09584935.2017.1410102


Unar, J. A., Seng, W. C., & Abbasi, A. (2014). A review of biometric technology along with trends and prospects. Pattern Recognition, 47(8), 2673-2688. doi:10.1016/j.patcog.2014.01.016

Multimedia reference list

Ali, A. (2018). Biometric ID cards Kerala govt has started the process of issuing the cards to labourers. DNA India. Retrieved from

Aktuell, N.(2018). Erkennung in Echtzeit: DERMALOG revolutioniert die Multibiometrie (FOTO). Retrieved from


Blankshoegazing. (2008). Survailence…?.Retrieved from


Bryant,D. (2013). Hack Facebook. Retrieved from


NEC America. (2017, Oct 2). Advanced Recognition Systems: A Look Inside Biometric Identification Technology. Retrieved from



Smith,J. (2009). Iidentix Face Scanner. Flicker. Retrieved from




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