More opposition to Australia’s facial recognition scheme

November 6, 2015 - 

In a meeting held with police, justice and law ministers, the attorney general of the Australian Capital Territory Simon Corbell stated that the country’s new facial recognition database would grant police “unprecedented and extraordinary” access to sensitive information without the proper privacy guidelines regulating its use, according to a report by The Guardian.

The move comes a few months after the government announced that next year it will roll out the new facial recognition matching system that uses a hub-and-spoke model to “facilitate ‘query and response’ matching requests between participating agencies.”

At the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council meeting, Corbell expressed the ACT’s strong opposition to the federal government’s planned initiative for the facial biometric matching capability database.

“Parts of the commonwealth government’s proposal, specifically around facial identification, will give law enforcement and other agencies an unprecedented and extraordinary level of access to biometric and biographical information,” Corbell said.

The database will store official images, such as a drivers’ licences and passport photos,which both state and commonwealth law enforcement agencies could use to identify suspected terrorists and serious criminals, such as murderers and armed thieves.

In October, the Senate heard that the federal government is considering taking photos from social media sites and adding them to its national biometrics database as part of the country’s counter-terrorism measures.

Corbell expressed concerns that there were no restrictions in place to unilaterally altering the legislation so that the database can be used to identify those criminals who have committed even minor crimes.

Additionally, Corbell pointed out a lack of regulations barring commercial entities from gaining access to the database.

“Of particular concern is the prospect that this data could be accessed by the private sector in the future, and potentially for a broad range of matters beyond the most serious of criminal matters,” said Corbell. “As it stands, such changes could be made without reference to any parliamentary oversight. In this context, it is the ACT’s view that wholesale population level comparison of facial images goes well beyond what is reasonable and proportionate in a free and democratic society.”

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.