Does Australia need the Biometric System?

Introduction to the Biometric System

In this essay, the biometric identification systems used in China and India will be discussed and referenced to critically analyze the challenges and advantages that Australia’s biometric identification system may face. The first part will discuss the history of biometrics all over the world, in particular focusing on the biometrics system used in China. The second part will explore the arguments that support the use of biometric systems: owning to the fact that it can improve social security and make the realization of electronic automated public management much more convenient. While in the third part, the opposite side that goes against the use of biometrics in Australia have the reasons as follows: as the lack of sound legislation and regulatory authorities to protect the security of biometric databases, the security of users’ privacy is a problem; in addition, wrong identification often happens because no biometric system that can work perfectly at present. In a nutshell, it concluded that the use of biometrics in Australia would be beneficial if legislation were passed to effectively protect the security and privacy aspects of biometrics.



Historical Background of BIOMETRICS:

BIOMETRICS is a technology that uses the con-natural physiological characteristics of the human being, such as DNA, fingerprints, iris, or behavioral characteristics, to identify an individual’s identity through computer technology (Mayhew, 2013). The use of biometrics has a history dating back to ancient Egypt, where people identified themselves by measuring the size of body parts. Modern biometrics appeared in the mid-1970s, and because early biometrics devices are often expensive, they are used only in high-security scientific experiments or crime screening. However, due to the decreasing cost of microprocessors and various electronic components, as well as the gradual improvement of the accuracy of instruments with the progress of technology, the biometric identification system is gradually applied in the commercial field.


Picture of iris recognition

Image: CPO Magazines, Sarah Meyer, some rights reserved

At present, people have developed a great many of different kinds of biometrics recognition manners, such as face recognition, fingerprint recognition, iris recognition, finger vein recognition, voice recognition, signature recognition, gait recognition, DNA recognition, and other biometric technologies. The highest market share is still the fingerprint machine and hand machine, and these two are at the top level of mature identification methods in the current technological development are the fingerprint machine and hand machine (Bing, 2010).




In China at the current stage, the development of biometric identification applications is mainly showing by the following aspects: First, the huge population base and the increasingly frequent population mobility. Among them, identity identification is the primary factor for static management and dynamic control. Secondly, in the era of economic globalization, the security management of a great number and extraordinary scale of the world’s factories from China also needs to use a biometric identification system. In addition, economic globalization brings more frequent demand for personal biometrics identification. Thirdly, with the advancement of science and technology brought about the popularization of electronic payment, for the future development of e-commerce and e-government, biometric technology is the best solution for the foreseeable future (Yong, 2011).




Does Australia need the Biometric System?


Affirmative side:

Proponents of the issue argue that effective use of biometrics, such as fingerprint recognition and facial recognition, is a more effective surveillance technology that would help improve national security and monitor corruption.

Picture of the terrorist attack in Kunming, China in 2014

Image: The New York Times, DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW, some rights reserved

As in China for example, after the terrorist attack in Kunming in 2014, all the criminals were caught within 40 hours. In the process of detection and chase, the police department has applied two major biometric techniques: DNA identification and fingerprint comparison. These two techniques are one of the most widely used and mature criminal investigation techniques in the world. In the process of arrest, the government obtains the criminal’s fingerprint through the investigation of the crime scene, and then continuously collects the suspect’s fingerprint and checks it during the pursuit process, so as to judge the whereabouts of the criminal and ensure the accuracy of the pursuit direction (Duo, 2014). The case would be the same in Australia as Alterman (2003, p.144) states that biometric identification systems can integrate national population data files into public CCTV surveillance systems, making it possible to monitor, verify and detect criminal activity around the clock.

Moreover, the application of biometrics in public management services will provide great help for the realization of electronic automated public management. As Jacobsen (2012) mentions that when we need to buy a plane ticket, we no longer need to make a tedious bank transfer, just a simple fingerprint or iris scan to make an electronic payment. It is obvious that the biometrics system can make people’s life more convenient.

Another important application in the hunt is the use of voiceprint recognition and communication tracking to catch criminals. As terrorists flee, they often keep in touch with their gang members. At this time, through communication tracking and harmonic recognition, can provide the latest criminal location and identity information for the investigation and pursuit. Through monitoring the communication of captured criminals, judging the identity of the people they contact, and positioning, we can quickly capture the missing members. Voice prints, like fingerprints, are stable and unique biological characteristics. Although the acoustic features of each person’s speech can vary due to physiological, pathological, simulation, camouflage, and other reasons, their voice pattern is still quite stable. Modern voiceprint technology has made it possible to parse and reconstruct recordings and processed sounds to determine the true identity of speakers (Duo, 2014).



Negative side:

Despite the aforementioned advantages of the biometrics system, there are still many practical problems that need to be faced in the application of biometrics in Australia. One of the main issues is the privacy of users, due to the lack of sound legislation and regulatory authorities to protect the security of biometric databases (Mann and smith, 2017, p.136). As Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim (2010) has stated in his speech that, in modern society, the security of personal privacy is not a right. It is a balance of objectives and interests that conflicts with other interests, such as the need for the free flow of information. People don’t have much privacy at all. Individuals’ privacy has gradually become a commodity, shared or sold by individual organizations or business groups. The same terrible problem arises in India as well. As Johnson (2017) mentions that in India, the relevant legal protection of the biometric identification system is at a very weak and frail level so that the security of individuals’ privacy is a big problem. The biometric system has been repeatedly attacked by hackers, followed by exposing the privacy of millions of Indians.

Additionally, another salient shortcoming is that there is no biometric system that can work perfectly at present, and wrong identification often happens. Error recognition is usually caused by changes in physical properties. For example, plastic surgery, or just fingerprint changes due to skin cuts, cracks, and dryness can cause wrong biometrics recognitions (Mayhew, 2013).





To sum up, in the context of today’s economic globalization, with the progress and development of science and technology, Australia should begin to utilize the biometric identification system. However, the premise of widespread popularization of this technology is that the Australian government must enact effective and well-run policies and legislation to protect the privacy security of every citizen. In this case, the use of a biometric identification system will bring great convenience to human life and improve the level of social security and stability.






Reference List:

Alterman, A. (2013). “A piece of yourself”: Ethical issues in biometric identification. Ethics and Information Technology, 5(3), 139-150. Retrieved from:

Bing, L. & Bing H. (2010). The Application and New Development Trend of Biometric Recognition Technology.

Duo, X. (2014). Anti-terrorism——biometric technology can do a lot (反恐——生物特征识别技术可以做很多). Retrieved from

Jacobsen, E. K. U. (2012). Unique Identification: Inclusion and surveillance in the Indian biometric assemblage. Security Dialogue, 43(5), 457–474. Retrieved from:

Mann, M. & Smith, M. (2017). Automated facial recognition technology: Recent developments and approaches to oversight. University of New South Wales Law Journal, 40(1), 121-145. Retrieved from:

Mayhew, S. (2013). Explainer: What is Biometric Identification? Retrieved from:

Pilgrim, T. (2010).  Privacy in Australia: Challenges and Opportunities. Retrieved from the Australian Government Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website:

TA, J. (2017). IIT Kharagpur graduate hacked Aadhaar data through Digital India app: Police. The Indian Express. Retrieved from:

Yong, L. (2011). Multi-modal biometric recognition based on the fusion of FAR and FRR (基于FARFRR融合的多模态生物特征识别).