Limits on use of facial recognition system

The ACT government has ruled out the possibility of Access Canberra using the federal government's proposed facial recognition technology to pursue unpaid fines.

Under a Council Of Australian Government agreement, Access Canberra - the territory's one-stop shop for government utilities, services and support - would be able to use the National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution or the "Capability".

According to the agreement, the ACT will pay the Commonwealth $20,000 a year to operate and maintain the system, and any costs related to integrating the ACT's database with the Capability would be the territory's responsibility.

ACT Policing would also have access to the technology.

The ACT government confirmed it had "no intention" of using the technology more broadly.

"The capacity for government agencies to use the Capability is still being finalised," a government spokesperson said. "The government has no plan to broaden Access Canberra's use of the system."

The government has ruled out using the system to verify people's identities, pursue parking infringements or any other responsibilities that fall to the services agency.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr was the sole state or territory leader to raise privacy concerns over the system, which the government stressed would be necessary for counter-terrorism.

The ACT government said it would only provide one-for-one matches, where the system returns a single identical match to a searched face, rather than multiple possible matches from searches in the One Person One Licence System (OPOLS).

Surveillance expert Professor Katina Michael from the University of Wollongong said one-to-one matches would help prevent innocent Canberrans being inadvertently targeted in an investigation. A search that returned multiple possible matches, she said, could create false positives for investigators.

"You don't want fuzzy matches," Professor Michael said.

The agreement did not permanently rule out the ACT's database being used in OPOLS searches. It stated there would not be any participation in the OPOLS "at this stage".

Mr Barr said he had requested restrictions on the use of the Capability so as to meet the ACT's Human Rights Act.

Citation: Finbar O'Mallon, October 15, 2017, "Limits on use of facial recognition system", Canberra Times, p. 2.