Should the biometric identification “roam freely” in Australia?


As an interdisciplinary and comprehensive technology, biometric identification technology has currently been widely used worldwide. However, its implementation has been controversial. In this essay, through a brief analysis of the biometric identification systems in India, a critical analysis of the application of biometric identification in Australia including its possible challenges and feasibility will be made. In the first part of this essay, a brief history of biometric identification systems worldwide and a brief introduction of biometric identification systems in India will be produced. In the second part, a discussion about the supporting and opposing application of biometric identification systems in Australia as well as an analysis of their feasibility and possible problems will be made. An exploration of the potential impacts of biometric systems on Internet users will be made in the third part. Finally, it will come to the conclusion that appropriate and correct measures, such as improving legislation and maintaining privacy rights, could make the biometric systems better applied in Australia.

A brief history of biometric identification and introduction of Aadhaar in India

Biometric identification technology can closely integrate computer technology with a variety of technologies including optics, acoustics, biosensors and biostatistics, and use the inherent physiological and behavioral characteristics of humans to identify personal identity (Feng 2018, p.1).

Although the earliest history of biometric identification can be traced back to the Babylonian Empire in 500 BC, the first systematic recording of hand images for identification appeared in the 19th century (Utzhanova 2016, p.325) while a British ICS officer in India named William James Herschel used the method of recording palm prints on the back of each worker’s contract to distinguish employees. At the end of the 19th century, Alphonse Bertillon developed the Bertillon system, a method of identifying individuals based on detailed records of personal body measurements, body descriptions and photos, however, it was quickly replaced by fingerprints that are more reliable and easy to record (Teitelbaum 2020, p.14). Since the 1960s, biometric identification systems have gradually become more automatic.

Alphonse Bertillon, view of identification photography and scene of crime and evidence photography
File:Alphonse Bertillon, Scene of Crime Evidence Photography, Musée de la Préfecture de Police, Paris.jpg by Roi Boshi (2010), CC BY-SA 4.0

Many countries in the world have implemented or are implementing personal identification systems for their citizens (Pati, Kumar & Jain 2015, p.125). India’s national identification program Aadhaar is currently the world’s largest biometric database. It is a digital identity assigned to Indian residents or passport holders based on biometrics. Aadhaar is not only used to identify residents, but is also associated with the part of the government’s welfare plans and corporate attendance methods.

A sample of Aadhaar card
File:A sample of Aadhaar card.jpg by PageImp (2016), CC BY-SA 4.0

Should biometric systems be vigorously implemented in Australia?   

As a combination of a variety of high-tech technologies, the biometric system has high security and convenience, but due to its many obstacles, it has been controversial. In recent years, the Australian public has paid more and more attention to the domestic application of biometric systems.

Agreeing camp

First of all, biometric identification systems can help strengthen border control. According to Pascu (2020), Australia’s Department of Home Affairs recently announced that the Enterprise Biometric Identification Services system (EBIS) established in cooperation with Unisys and Idemia has been officially put into operation. With reference to Unisys’s multi-element identity management and identification technology and using Idemia’s biometric facial and fingerprint recognition technology (Pascu, 2020), the EBIS system is said to be one of the most accurate biometric management systems in the world today (Cotton, 2020). It is aimed at better distinguishing passengers and improving Australia’s ability to identify criminals. In addition, Australia’s new border biometric ID system can also play a significant role in the current situation where the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is spreading rapidly around the world. It would be able to promote the movement of legitimate travelers and reduces the possibility of the spread of COVID-19.

Facial recognitioat TSA security checkpoint
Customer uses facial recognition as identification at TSA security checkpoint by Delta News Hub (2018), CC BY 2.0

Secondly, since human body characteristics have the uniqueness inherent in the human body that cannot be copied, the use of biometric identification technology for identity verification is relatively safe, reliable and accurate (Jain, Lin & Pankanti 2000, p.92). The biometric identification system also makes the lives of residents more convenient. For example, the smart IC card that stores personal biometric information realizes offline authentication, which not only improves authentication efficiency, but also saves online query costs (Feng 2018, p.4).

Fingerprint and smartlock
On Body phone and smartlock system by UW News (2016), CC BY 2.0

Thirdly, according to Utzhanova (2016, p.327), the contribution of biometric systems to environmental protection should not be ignored. Biometrics requires electronic storage of information. Therefore, it helps to reduce both the mass consumption of paper and the manufacture of plastic cards.

Opposition camp

In addition to the attention paid to the advantages of biometric systems, the application of biometric systems in Australia has also been challenged.

Firstly, biometric identification technology has a certain risk of privacy leakage. For instance, despite being one of the largest biometric databases, the Aadhaar system still has the risk of leaking privacy (Pati, Kumar & Jain 2015, p.128-129). Doshi (2018) has mentioned in a news report that nearly one billion people were at risk of personal information leakage and identity being theft due to security breaches in Aadhaar. As part of the National Identification of Identity Crime and Misuse project carried out by the Department of Home Affairs, a 2018 online investigation report (Jorna, Smith & Norman, 2020) collected nearly 10,000 residents in Australia on the victimization of identity theft. The report pointed out that 48.8% of residents are extremely concerned about the protection of personal data privacy of biometric technology. The current biometric identification system seems not to be able to bring enough security and privacy protection to most Australian residents. Some of the biometric identification information, such as fingerprint, could be easily extracted from the items that residents touch in daily life without being noticed.


Video concerning Aadhaar Security Breach       

Source: NewsClickin (2018), YouTube

Secondly, the biometric identification system has limitations and is easily affected by a user’s age change, face change or another external environment. For example, Jain, Lin & Pankanti (2000, p.98) mention that speech recognition is easily affected by background noise and the emotions of the speaker. Facial recognition sometimes is sensitive to the complex background environment and special illumination (Jain, Lin & Pankanti 2000, p.95).

Other factors such as the high cost of iris recognition equipment and the immature retinal recognition collection technology may also cause Australian citizens to have concerns about the biometric system (Feng 2018, p.2).

Iris recognition
#CES2015 #Snapcious – Iris recognition (Myris) – Mission Impossible just went mainstream by mack reed (2015), CC BY-ND 2.0

Possible Implications

In order to enable the biometric identification system to be used more effectively and safely in Australia, it is necessary to strengthen relevant legislation and accelerate the development of encryption technology.

Firstly, combine the biometric system with the technology with an integrated password function could help further protect the personal data and privacy in the biometric system. At the same time, this measure makes it more convenient for Internet users. They could offload the burden of memorizing complicated passwords from time to time. Simultaneously, online identity verification will be not so easy to be damaged by unauthorized (Shin-Yan, 2013).

Secondly, to some extent, data protection legislation could help promote the progress of protecting users from electronic marketing or spam (Hoffman & Metivier Carreiro, n.d.) Due to the need to strengthen the network’s control over the biometric system, the operating behavior of Internet users will be recorded more strictly and in detail (Hoffman & Metivier Carreiro, n.d.).



As a comprehensive technology that combines computer technology with optics and other biological principles, the biometric identification system can make residents’ lives more convenient, enable enterprises to establish more efficient management systems, and improve national security. However, because of the limitations of various biometric technologies, their widespread use has been controversial in society. To apply a more integrated biometric identification in Australia, it is necessary to consider strengthening privacy protection laws, improving disciplinary measures, strengthening network supervision, and accelerating the development of more secure encryption technologies. With the aid of correct measures, the biometric identification system can better serve the people.



Hypertextual Article Reference List:

Cotton, J. (2020). Australia’s new border biometric ID system goes live. Retrieved



Doshi, V. (2018). A security breach in India has left a billion people at risk ofidentity theft. Retrieved



Feng, Z. (2018). Biometric Identification Technology and Development Trend ofPhysiological Characteristics. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1060(1), 1–5. Retrieved



Hoffman, L., & Metivier Carreiro, K. (n.d.) Chapter 5: Technology and Privacy Policy | National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Retrieved



Jain, A., Lin, H., & Pankanti, S. (2000). Biometric identification. Association for Computing Machinery. Communications of the ACM, 43(2), 90–98. Retrieved



Jorna, P., Smith, R., & Norman, K. (2020). Identity crime and misuse in Australia: Results of the 2018 online survey. Australian Institute of Criminology, 2020. Retrieved



Pascu, L. (2020). Australia launches biometric ID system for border control developed by Unisys, Idemia. Retrieved



Pati, R., Kumar, V., & Jain, N. (2015). Analysis of Aadhaar: A Project Management Perspective. IIM Kozhikode Society & Management Review, 4(2), 124–135. Retrieved



Shin-Yan, C. (2013). Secure method for biometric-based recognition with integrated cryptographic functions. BioMed Research International, 2013. Retrieved



Teitelbaum, J. (2020). Alphonse Bertillon – Whose Legacy as a Pioneer in Criminal Identifi cation Was Undone by Fingerprinting – May Have Solved the World’s First Fingerprint Murder Case. Forensic Science Review, 32(1), 14–15. Retrieved from:


Utzhanova, A. (2016). Fingerprint Technology and Sustainable Development. European Journal Of Sustainable Development, 5(4), 325-334. Retrieved




Multimedia Reference List:

Delta News Hub (2018). Customer uses facial recognition as identification at TSA security checkpoint. Flickr. Retrieved



Mack Reed (2015). Iris recognition (Myris) – Mission Impossible just went mainstream. Flickr. Retrieved



PageImp (2016). File:A sample of Aadhaar card.jpg. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from:


Roi Boshi (2010). File:Alphonse Bertillon, Scene of Crime Evidence Photography, Musée de la Préfecture de Police, Paris.jpg. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved



UW News (2016). On Body phone and smartlock system. Flickr. Retieved


About Antong Chen 2 Articles
I am Antonia, a university student major in Digital Cultures.