EFA Warns Chinese-Style Facial Recognition Is Already Happening In Australia

Australia, 16 July 2019:

Electronic Frontiers Australia, the premier digital rights body promoting and protecting digital rights since 1994, has called for Australians to reject oppressive facial-recognition systems, like those use by the Chinese authorities to oppress the Uyghur muslim minority.

“Last night’s programme on ABC’s Four Corners revealed that Australian universities, researchers, and technology companies are actively collaborating with oppressive regimes to use technologies like facial recognition against vulnerable groups,” said EFA Chair Lyndsey Jackson.

“What Australians might not know is that facial recognition systems, like those in the Four Corners report, are already being rolled out in Australia,” she said.

Queensland Police deployed facial recognition during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, ostensibly to protect against terrorism, but it immediately started being used for general policing. Stadiums Queensland continues to use facial recognition at its venues. Perth council is pushing ahead with its own facial recognition trial despite opposition from local residents.

And Australian federal authorities are actively seeking to build a system, disturbingly called The Capability, to use facial recognition across all of Australia.

“We see the same language being used in Australia as used by the Chinese government”, Jackson said. “It’s justified as being about terrorism, but that’s just a word used to stop people thinking about what’s actually going on. It’s really about using state power to abuse vulnerable groups.”

“And it’s all happening without any community consultation or debate,” she said. “These systems are just being imposed on us, in secret.”

Other jurisdictions, such as San Francisco in the USA, are already banning the use of facial recognition systems.

“With the Australian government already going so far as to raid journalists for exposing government misdeeds, and refusing to rule out prosecuting them for crimes, it’s easy to see how these systems will be abused.”

“Australians should immediately call for all facial recognition systems in Australia to be removed,” Jackson says. “All facial recognition projects should be halted, and no more should be started.”

“We’ve already gone much too far with mass-surveillance in Australia,” she said. “Australians need to stand up for their own privacy and freedom and say No More.”

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Bavas, J. (2019). ‘The Facial Recognition Security Issue Police Tried To Keep Secret’. ABC News, accessed July 16, 2019, from <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-06/australias-biggest-facial-recognition-roll-out-rushed/11077350>.

Thomas, E. (2019). ‘Perth Council Facial Recognition Trial Greeted With Concern And Scepticism’. The Guardian, accessed July 16, 2019, from <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jun/12/perth-councils-facial-recognition-trial-accused-of-blanket-surveillance>.