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.”

Media Contact

[email protected]

Links

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>.

4 comments

  1. “Australians need to stand up for their own privacy and freedom and say No More.”
    Sadly most Aussies prefer to live in their 'bubbles'.. I know that I've tried to enlighten many to be more aware, but they're really just not interested, till they are .. too late.

    Comment by Helen Sanders on 24 July 2019 at 23:42
  2. The idea of using facial recognition I don't have a problem with so much, in places like air & ocean ports secure area's, like baggage area's, worker entrances & arrival and departure gateways. But, not in just general social area's, like the local mall, the street, corner store or the park, I don't think so.
    Traffic cams & toll points are another one. At the moment now, my whereabouts as a Truckie, is being tracked & constant verified, between my logbook and traffic & "Safety Cam"s throughout Australia. This is currently being done by number plate ID, but on at least 1 occasion, I was cleared of a false positive from the system, by using a photo showing that it wasn't me behind the wheel, at one point.
    So I do see both sides of the arguement, but the bracket creep by the agencies, moving the boundaries of what these PROTECTIVE strategies can or should be used for is probably my biggest concern. Today it's just when we board a plane, tomorrow it's when we use the loo, next week it's what positions we like in the bed room.
    I know several people will say that I'm being dramatic, & I know I am, but I'm just making a very possible point.
    TechCrunch reviewed a response from Apple to the Australian Government. pointing out the possible legal covert surveillance of an Australian citizens life, (https://techcrunch.com/2018/10/12/apple-rebukes-australias-dangerously-ambiguous-anti-encryption-bill/). It doesn't need to much of a stretch to combine face recognition being brought into our homes COVERTLY, TODAY.
    Is Australia, the clever country, becoming too clever for it's own good????
    Sorry for the rant, but.........

    Comment by John Bennett on 14 August 2019 at 07:14
  3. How *do* we fight something like this? This government doesn't listen to anyone that it doesn't want to hear from and we're stuck with it for at least three years which is plenty of time to push through a truck load of draconian legislation pretty much in secret. Mass protests large enough for politicians to be bothered aren't going to happen these days. It seems to me that the only option is to challenge legislation through the courts, and few can afford to do that. So what do we do?

    Comment by Christopher Martin on 20 August 2019 at 15:02
  4. It just occurred to me... If the government wants to scan surveillance camera footage to identify people meeting journalists in public places, a capability like this would be very useful to the government. Gather recordings of public places over the last six months, identify and track the journalist of interest, identify anyone in the journalist's immediate vicinity for more than a few minutes... Job done! Let the AFP raids begin!

    As for the government's claim that it cannot accept live feeds (as if the system is already implemented)... what a load of BS! To a video processing system, there is no difference between a pre-recorded stream versus a live stream. It's a video stream, plain and simple, regardless of the source. It's just polymorphism, object oriented programming 101. To accept a live feed could take as little effort as the implementation of a single class.

    Comment by Christopher Martin on 20 August 2019 at 15:19

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *