ACIC ditches biometric identification project, terminates NEC contract

Terminates NEC Australia contract

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has confirmed that it has cancelled a contract with NEC Australia to deliver the Biometric Identification Services (BIS) Project.

ACIC CEO Michael Phelan said the ACIC had decided to discontinue the BIS project in light of delays in implementing the new system.

InnovationAus revealed earlier this week that the project had been suspended.

The ACIC said that the project was suspended on 4 June.

In May 2016 one of the ACIC’s predecessor agencies, CrimTrac, awarded NEC Australia the $46.8 million contract to deliver the BIS project and operate the service for five years. The project was due to be delivered in 2017.

The ACIC was created in mid-2016 and its responsibilities include operating the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) and the National Criminal Investigation DNA Database (NCIDD).

The BIS project was intended to deliver a replacement for NAFIS that would offer access to a greater range of biometric data beyond just fingerprints. NEC Australia said that it would allow law enforcement agencies to better make better use of already captured biometric data such as police databases containing 12 million facial images and 6.7 million fingerprint sets.

“The BIS project will deliver a national solution for facial recognition, transforming Australian law enforcement and national border security agency capabilities in fighting crime and protecting the Australian community,” NEC Australia said in its 2016 announcement.

“Specifically, NEC’s facial recognition technology will assist policing for the purposes of identification, linking and solving crimes, and rapid identification using mobile capture devices, and will further enhance national border security,” the company said.

NAFIS is used by federal, state and territory police forces.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is currently conducting an audit of the BIS project.

The ANAO says the audit has two criteria:

1. Was the procurement process for the Biometric Identification Service (BIS) project conducted in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules?

2. Has the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission effectively managed the BIS project to achieve agreed outcomes?

The ANAO report is expected to be tabled in December.

Phelan said that the ACIC in February requested the ANAO audit.

“The ACIC is committed to delivering projects that enhance capability for our law enforcement partners,” Phelan said in a statement.

“As part of this approach we regularly review the scope, expected benefits and ongoing feasibility of our projects.”

The CEO’s statement added: “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.”

NEC Australia said it was "extremely disappointed" with the decision.

The government’s initiative to create a federated facial verification and identification system is separate from BIS.

Read more: NEC hits back at ACIC over biometrics project

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Tags biometricsNEC Australialaw enforcementAustralian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC)

More about AustraliaAustralian National Audit OfficeBiometric IdentificationNational Audit OfficeNECNEC Australia

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