Face to face with Big Brother

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  • National biometric database to fight terrorism, identity theft and serious crimes 
  • Drivers' licences to start to be loaded into Home Affairs new database soon
  • The new database can also be used in the prevent outbreaks of serious diseases

A national facial recognition database system is set to become Australia's latest weapon in the crackdown against terrorism, identity theft and serious crimes.

Millions of driver's licences will start to be loaded into the Department of Home Affairs new biometric database within months, which every Australian drivers licence could be linked within 18 months, The Courier-Mail has revealed.

Police are currently being trained to use the Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution, the publication reported.

Firearms, fishing and proof-of-age cards can also be uploaded into the system which can hold up to 30 million licences.

The aim of the database is to give national and state law enforcement agencies a new crime fighting tool in their crackdown against terrorism, identity theft and serious crime. 

To solve serious crimes, police will be able to run CCTV through the database, which will bring up to 20 possible suspects.

The database will also prevent outbreaks of serious diseases, where health agencies can request police to track down members of the public who came into contact with someone carrying a disease.

While all states and territories agreed to the identity-matching services last year, the  federal government is yet to get new laws passed through parliament.

Privacy has been raised as a concern, along with the vulnerabilities of biometrics.

Around half of Australia's population already have some type of visual biometric stored in a nationally-accessible database, according to technology and legal expert Professor Katina Michael.

She told the ABC earlier this year that figure to grow will 80 per cent with the inclusion of drivers licences.

'It's not like a one-on-one match, where you put (in) an individual's face and say: 'they're a suspect',' Professor Michael said.

'But rather what you get returned is a number of possibilities … you might get back 15, or 20, or 30, or 50 matches.'

Citation: Kylie Stevens, August 6, 2018, "Face to face with Big Brother: Millions of driver's licences to be linked to proposed national facial recognition database", DailyMail: Australia, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6028795/Millions-drivers-licences-linked-proposed-national-facial-recognition-database.html

Agencies may access IDs

Government agencies could get approved access to part of the Commonwealth's newly proposed facial recognition program.

The Facial Verification Service, part of the federal government's new "Capability" program, would be accessible by departments such as the Department of Human Services or the Australian Taxation Office.

The system would be used to provide a one-for-one match from a person's existing photo with any other government-issued identities they may hold, rather than returning multiple potential matches.

The Attorney-General's Department said government agencies and private businesses would have to complete a privacy impact statement before given access.

"Organisations using the service would need to demonstrate their lawful basis to do so under the Privacy Act, and could only use the FVS where they gain a person's consent to use their images," a spokesman said.

Surveillance expert Professor Katina Michael of the University of Wollongong said access should only be granted on a case-by-case basis, concerned that Capability could be linked to a person's metadata or even tax file number.

"What I can't understand is it's open at all times indefinitely," Professor Michael said. "That is not professional. It's warrantless searching."

She also raised concerns about the private sector having access to the system.

"It's going to be bidirectional. This is a lovely symbiosis between government and industry. This is the only way that government can crawl their way into the data sets of Facebook and Google."

When originally launched in November, the FVS used photos captured by the Australian Border Force from passports or citizenship photos, and was only available to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Australian Federal Police.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced it would establish the national facial recognition system drawing on issued identification from all Australian jurisdictions allowing FVS users to access state or territory databases.

The Capability now comprises three parts, the Document Verification Service, the FVS and the Facial Identification Service.

The FIS allows law enforcement to scan photos of unknown persons and match them with multiple government records.

"For example, it can be used to identify a suspected paedophile from child exploitation material, or to identify an armed offender from a still image taken from CCTV footage," a spokesman said. There were no current plans to expand access to the FIS.

But Professor Michael was concerned the FIS would eventually be opened up to other agencies and the private sector.

Finbar O'Mallon, October 15, 2017, "Agencies may access IDs", Canberra Times, p. 8.

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.

Facial recognition, law enforcement and the risks for and against

Katrina Dunn of Ideapod interviews Katina Michael of UOW.

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.

Facial Recognition and Scope Creep in Australian Proposal

'Before we know it…': worries over feature creep

But surveillance expert Professor Katina Michael pointed to an established trend of technology creeping up in scope and said The Capability would be no exception.

She expected the system to slide down a slippery slope of privacy erosion, eventually being used for petty crime, civil cases and a whole range of purposes unrelated to terrorism.

"It's a farce," she said.

"Before we know it'll be used for breath tests and speeding, it will be used to open a bank account … licences are our primary ID — so does that mean everywhere we've been using them for identity, all the clubs and pubs, will have access to it?

"Even car insurance — [people will think] 'we are using it for drivers' licences, maybe we should also use it for third-party compulsory insurance. And then we need it for health insurance'."

Your face 'may end up on some third-party selling list'

Ms Michael was equally concerned about systematic errors causing potential mistaken identities and leading to people being wrongly accused or suspected of crime.

"It's not going to take long for these systems to be hacked, no matter what security you have in place and once it's hacked, that's it — everyone's facial images will end up on some third-party selling list and possibly on the internet for accessibility."

"Yeah, people put photos on Facebook, but not in that kind of systematic, calculated way.

"Some Australian citizens are going to be completely freaked out."

Original Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-05/facial-recognition-coag-privacy-concerns-about-the-capability/9017494

Citation: Jake Evans and Clare Sibthorpe, "Facial recognition: Feature creep may impose government's software in our lives, expert warns", ABC News, October 5, 2017. Available: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-05/facial-recognition-coag-privacy-concerns-about-the-capability/9017494

Biometric Behavioural Analytics

– Professor Katina Michael – Professor at the School of Computing and Information Technology at University of Wollongong chats to Trevor Long and Nick Bennett on Talking Technology about facial recognition technology and whether it could distinguish between twins.

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Citation: Katina Michael speaks with Trevor Long and Nick Bennett, "Can twins fool facial recognition technology?", Talking Technology on Talking Lifestyle at 8.40pm-9.00pm, September 7, 2017.

Original source: https://omny.fm/shows/talking-technology/can-twins-fool-facial-recognition-technology