Facial recognition limited to serious offences but APF says disproportionate

Thank you to Naomi Woodley from the ABC for inviting comment from the Australian Privacy Foundation on the topic of invasive technology adoption by the government for the purposes of "national security". The press release from the APF, Digital Rights Watch, Electronic Frontiers Australia and a number of other non-government organisations can be found below.

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The Federal Government says police will only be able to use a national facial recognition database when they are investigating serious crimes that carry a penalty of three years in jail or more.

But privacy advocates still don't believe the database is needed.

Professor Katina Michael from the Australian Privacy Foundation says, if it must go ahead, then its use should be overseen by a specific commissioner.

Duration: 2min 43sec
Broadcast: Fri 6 Oct 2017, 6:05am
Original source here: http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/am/facial-recognition-to-be-limited-to-serious-offences-keenan/9021468

Featured:
Michael Keenan, Justice Minister
Professor Katina Michael, School of Computing and Information Technology, University of Wollongong

Credits: Author- Naomi Woodley

Citation: Michael Keenan and Katina Michael with Naomi Woodley, "Facial recognition to be limited to serious offences: Keenan", ABC AM, Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/am/facial-recognition-to-be-limited-to-serious-offences-keenan/9021468.

 

APF Joint Press Release

Comprehensive national face database incompatible with a free society

Australia’s leading privacy and civil liberties organisations condemn the decision by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to provide all images from state and territory driver’s licence databases to the federal National Facial Biometric Matching Capability.

These organisations are the Australian Privacy Foundation, Digital Rights Watch, Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Liberty Victoria, South Australian Council for Civil Liberties and Electronic Frontiers Australia.

The creation of such a comprehensive national facial database is an unnecessary and disproportionate invasion of the privacy rights of all Australians, is the foundation for suspicionless, warrantless mass surveillance and is fundamentally incompatible with a free and open society.

David Vaile, Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation said, “This government has proven it is blind and deaf to privacy and personal information security threats. Make no mistake – this database will affect all Australians, even the most conscientious and law-abiding. It will likely generate massive ‘false positive’ lists that will flood our very effective police and security services with useless distractions. We’ve already seen calls for ‘scope creep’ to cover welfare enforcement, and there’s every reason to expect this capability will come to be used to identify people with unpaid fines and other minor issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.”

Tim Singleton Norton, Chair of Digital Rights Watch said, “This is a gross overreach into the privacy of everyday Australian citizens, and will have huge impacts on the trust in government to manage this database.  What is urgently needed is proper consultation, evidence and debate - in parliament, with civil society and the public themselves. Whilst we of course must ensure that our law enforcement agencies have the tools necessary to undertake their important work, this should not come at the expense of citizen’s rights to privacy.”

Angus Murray, Vice-President of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties said, “The protection of the Australian community is fundamentally important – however, this also includes the protection of Australians’ civil liberties and privacy. Today’s agreement, and this continued scope creep, clearly highlights the need for the introduction of a tort of serious invasions of privacy and enforceable Human Rights legislation. It is incumbent on the Parliament to ensure that today’s COAG agreement on the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability is demonstrably necessary, adequate and proportionate, and subject to proper public scrutiny.”

Stephen Blanks, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said, "The community does not yet understand the real implications of facial recognition technology and how fundamentally the way people can access public spaces like airports, sporting facilities and shopping centres will change. When they understand the realities of this technology, people will be very concerned."

Jon Lawrence, Executive Officer of Electronic Frontiers Australia said, “This decision is nothing less than a complete betrayal of a fundamental civil liberty of all Australians.  If implemented, it will ensure that the presumption of innocence no longer has any effective meaning in this country. Such an untargeted, mass surveillance database is just the latest attempt by governments to categorise everyone as potential suspects, not citizens.”

These organisations therefore call on all Australians concerned about this initiative to contact both their state/territory and federal parliamentarians to help them understand that this initiative is an example of government overreach that is simply unacceptable.