Australia Just Shut Its National Biometric ID Project Down

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The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has just announced its decision to discontinue the Biometric Identifiaction Services (BIS) project, citing delays as the cause.

This announcement comes after the project was suspended earlier this month and NEC Australia staff were escorted out of the building by security on Monday June 4.

Here is the full statement from Michael Phelan, the Chief Executive Officer of the ACIC:

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has decided to discontinue the Biometric Identification Services (BIS) project. This decision was taken in light of project delays.

The contract with NEC Australia to deliver the BIS project has today been terminated. The project was suspended by mutual agreement on 4 June 2018 while commercial negotiations were ongoing. NEC Australia was contracted to deliver the capability in April 2016.

The Australian National Audit Office is conducting an audit into the project as requested by the ACIC in February 2018. The ACIC is committed to delivering projects that enhance capability for our law enforcement partners. As part of this approach we regularly review the scope, expected benefits and ongoing feasibility of our projects.

The ACIC is committed to providing national criminal information and intelligence services, including fingerprint data, to more than 70,000 police officers and other accredited users on a daily basis, to keep them and the Australian community safe.

ACIC contracted the NEC for the $52 million Biometric Identification Services project with the view of replacing the fingerprint identification system that is currently in place. The aim of the project, which was supposed to run until 2021, was to include palm print, foot prints and facial recognition to aid in police investigations.

The Australian government stated that it wanted to provide Australians with a single digital identity by 2025. However Innovation Aus reported that the project is said to have been roughly $40 million over budget and returning a large amount of false positives.

At this time it's unclear if the project will be revisited in another form in the future, or if its termination will impact on the Digital Transformation Agency's (DTA) biometric project which received over $90 million in this year's federal budget announcement.

According to the DTA website, it is working with the government on a standard for establishing digital identity so Australians can verify their identities securely online.

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