Australia, 24 October 2019:

Electronic Frontiers Australia welcomes the news today that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has rejected proposed legislation that would have created a facial recognition mass-surveillance system reminiscent of that used by the Chinese government against its own citizens in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

 In its report handed down today, the Committee recommended that the proposed Identity-Matching Services Bill 2019 be completely re-drafted, and that the Australian Passports Amendment (Identity-matching Services) Bill should not proceed until this has been done. EFA supports the Committee’s view, and congratulates the committee members for their concern for individual privacy, transparency, and robust safeguards.

The chair of EFA’s policy committee, Mr Angus Murray, said: “The decision today by the PJCIS sends Government a clear message that Australians’ fundamental rights, including the right to privacy, ought to be protected and this message should be taken seriously.

It is now incumbent on Government to properly address the PJCIS’ recommendations and redraft the Identity-Matching Services Bill 2019 in a manner that proportionately and properly protects the reasonable expectations of Australian citizens with citizen privacy and government transparency at the forefront of this process. In doing this, we consider that it is also necessary for Local Councils and State Governments to cease deploying and using facial recognition technology”.

EFA’s submission, quoted in the Report released today by the PJCIS, pointed to a risk that the security of biometric data contained in the interoperability hub could be compromised, with unintended  consequences. EFA cautioned against the proposed powers being granted to the Minister under the scheme and argued that it should be up to the legislature to decide, with proper debate, the basis for further inclusion of new and emerging technologies.

Electronic Frontiers Australia has joined calls for an international moratorium on facial recognition technology signed by more than 79 privacy and community groups which calls for countries to suspend the further deployment of facial recognition technology for mass surveillance and to review all facial recognition systems to determine whether personal data was obtained lawfully and to destroy data that was obtained unlawfully.

Inquiry Website: https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Intelligence_and_Security/Identity-Matching2019

EFA Submission: https://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=69a5d394-e429-44a4-bff3-7b0662222050&subId=670836

Contact: Angus Murray

Mobile: 0405 715 427

 [email protected]

Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. (EFA) is a non-profit national organisation that has been promoting and protecting digital rights (civil liberties) in Australia since it was established in January 1994. 

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