Under amendments to the Migration Act, Australian authorities will have increased authority to collect biometric data as of February this year. Up until now, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has only been able to collect biometric information from non-citizens for immigration purposes. The type of biometric data it has been able to collect has been limited facial images, fingerprints and signatures. However this is all changing!

The new law gives authorities a discretionary power to request biometric information from Australian citizens as well as from non-citizens who are entering Australia. It also allows authorities to gather personal identifying information from minors and people incapable of understanding the nature of providing personal identifying information, without their consent, and without the presence of a parent or guardian. The data collection can include fingerprints and iris scans if deemed necessary.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has stated that the increased power to collect biometrics is part of Australia’s response to combat terrorism. The amendments to the law will allow authorities to conduct identity checks using hand held devices which will let them quickly identify those who may pose a threat to the community. However, does the ends justify the means?