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.

Human Microchips: Employers Going Too Far

download.jpg

Human microchip implants have been around for awhile, used by home automation enthusiasts and biohacking movements. But Swedish company Epicenter is taking the technology to a whole new context as a workplace monitoring tool.

The microchips have been implanted into 150 employees and will enable them to open doors, use photocopiers and make purchases from the company cafe. However, privacy is a concern for many people.

Professor Katina Michael joined Nic to discuss the importance of personal choice in using implantables and the problems that may arise when companies and governments use the technology for potentially nefarious purposes.

Citation: Katina Michael with Nick Healy, "Human Microchips: Employees Go Far", 2SERFM Breakfast, May 5, 2017, 6.45-6.50am, http://2ser.com/human-microchips-employers-going-far/, Producers: Jennifer Luu.

Are disaster early warnings effective?

Key Link

Authors

Kerri WorthingtonSBS Radio
Katina MichaelUniversity of Wollongong
Peter JohnsonARUP
Paul BarnesQueensland University of Technology

Article comments

Details can be found here: http://www.sbs.com.au/podcasts/Podcasts/radionews/episode/251657/Are-disaster-early-warnings-effective

Abstract

emergency-alert-2.jpg

Australia's summer is traditionally a time of heightened preparation for natural disasters, with cyclones and floods menacing the north and bushfires a constant threat in the south. And the prospect of more frequent, and more intense, disasters thanks to climate change has brought the need for an effective early warning system to the forefront of policy-making. Technological advances and improved telecommunication systems have raised expectations that warning of disasters will come early enough to keep people safe. But are those expectations too high? Kerri Worthington reports.

Increasingly, the world's governments -- and their citizens -- rely on technology-based early warning systems to give sufficient notice to prepare for disaster. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed well over a quarter of a million people led to the establishment of an early warning system for countries bordering the ocean. Last year, Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono praised the system for warning people to prepare for a possible tsunami after an 8.6 magnitude quake in the ocean floor northwest of the country. Japan's years of preparedness is also credited for saving lives in the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

In Australia, the Federal Government has instigated an 'all-hazards' approach to early warnings, including terrorist acts as well as natural disasters, in the wake of a number of international terrorist attacks that affected Australians. Professor Katina Michael of the University of Wollongong specialises in technologies used for national security. Professor Michael has praised Australia's location-based national emergency warning system which allows service providers to reach people in hazardous or disaster areas, locating them through their mobile devices. "And that's a real new innovation for the Australian capability which I think is among the first in the world to actually venture into that mandated approach to location warning of individuals. And this allows people who are visiting a location, maybe working in a location they're not residing in, or maybe enjoying recreation activities in a location to be warned about a hazard." But there are concerns those systems can breed complacency.

Peter Johnson is a fellow at Arup, a global firm of designers, planners, engineers and technical specialists. "There is a concern about people in communities being too reliant just on official warnings to trigger actions. There's people in the community who think 'well I don't need to do anything, I just have to wait and someone will tell me what to do' and ignore the personal responsibility for their response and actions, so that's an issue. There's another issue about official warnings in some cases may come too late in flash floods or days of very high fire danger and rapid spread."

Mr Johnson says warnings need to be timely and relevant, with minimal false alarms to avoid 'warning fatigue', where people ignore alerts. That's an issue Victoria's County Fire Authority is currently grappling with. It's come under criticism after hundreds of people reported its FireReady app for mobile devices that gives location of fires and fire conditions, has proven to be unreliable. Many Victorians are anxious about early warning of impending fires, after many were taken by surprise -- with some fatal consequences -- in the Black Saturday fires of 2009. Fire experts say it's important not to rely only on one source of information for disaster warnings. And Peter Johnson says government bodies need to set warnings within an overall emergency management context. "We need the risk knowledge, we need the planning, the pre-event information and the broad season warnings and alerting us to days of flooding or total fire ban. Equally we need to understand, and probably better understand, the response of people and communities to those warnings and what actions are taking place."

Paul Barnes, the coordinator of the Risk and Crisis Management Research Domain at the Queensland University of Technology, agrees early warning policies need to be part of a broader risk and hazard communication capability. "When we have natural and socio-technical disasters often we start with the natural phenomena, the natural threat. We had seismic activity, earthquakes in Japan, bushfires, flooding in Australia. But very quickly the impacts from that initial source impact on technical hazards, technical issues, so we lose infrastructure systems, we lose telephony. We also therefore have, in some cases, biological problems in terms of water supply being contaminated." Dr Barnes says often what starts out to be one type of problem quickly cascades into others, and information about ongoing issues needs to be communicated to the public. "Once the initial event occurs, there will be an ongoing need to have continuing types of information flow to the public about cascading elements and the connective elements of these sorts of impacts as they go through time. So the basic principle of the complexity of the situation and matching the sophistication and adaptability of information that needs to go to the public, and also those not affected -- emergency responders, government officials, etc -- is a very complex situation that requires some very sophisticated application of thinking."

Suggested Citation

Kerri Worthington, Katina Michael, Peter Johnson, and Paul Barnes. "Are disaster early warnings effective?" SBS Radio: World News Jan. 2013. Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kmichael/318