The Australian government is ending its plans for a national biometric database meant to help police departments track suspects and other persons of interest, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission announced Friday. Surveillance and security company NEC was awarded the contract in 2016, but after a third-party audit found the project had nearly doubled its budget, ACIC terminated the contact.
“NEC is extremely disappointed by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission decision to terminate the Biometric Identification Services project. NEC has worked closely with the ACIC to deliver the BIS project and have clearly demonstrated to the ACIC that we already have a high quality solution that will meet their needs,” a spokesman said in a statement to Australian press.
The Biometric Identification Services project’s goal was to expand Australia’s fingerprint identification system by adding facial recognition, palm prints, and foot prints. An audit delivered by consulting group PriceWaterhouseCoopers in November found the project was a year behind schedule and $40 million over its budget of $46 million. The report found the project “has been highly challenged to date, and presents a high risk to the ACIC,” ultimately warning against scrapping the project and recommending an overhaul, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Biometric security processes like face recognition and fingerprinting are already popular among law enforcement both in Australia and the U.S. A 2016 report from Georgetown Law’s Center of Privacy and Technology found 117 million Americans’ faces are in law enforcement networks. That’s about 50 percent of all adults in the United States.
ACIC hasn’t announced if it plans to pursue a different company to build the biometric database.