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Facial recognition deployment by Queensland Police for Commonwealth Games largely unsuccessful

The facial recognition system used by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games did not identify any of the 16 high-priority targets it was intended to, and halfway through the games, it was opened up to general police inquiries, Australia’s ABC News reports. Once the scope of the application had been changed, the system identified five people out of 268 requests.

ABC News also reports that QPS initially answered questions about the system’s performance by saying no problems had been experienced, but repeatedly tried to block the publication’s Right to Information (RTI) requests. The Office of the Information Commissioner ruled the internal police report a matter of public interest, and it was released.

From the report, ABC learned that when expected legislation did not pass at the national and state levels, the database was reduced from the anticipated 46 million images to 8 million. ABC says the deployment was rushed, and that QPS also experienced difficulty getting one of the systems to capture data. The system was not available for testing until the week the games started, according to the report.

Michael Cope of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties called the change in operation “scope creep.”

“This just demonstrates that really the main use of this thing is not going to be to find people who might be potentially coming to cause mayhem and to kill people, but it’s going to be to catch people who are committing ordinary mundane offences,” he told ABC News.

Queensland Law Society President Bill Potts told the broadcaster that the public deserves to know the details of the program.

“One of the real questions to ask is, why has it taken so long and why did they find it so hard to provide details of something which they had announced would be utilised and was going to be a terrific success?” he said.

A massive service outage involving SmartGate passport control machines at all Australian international airports caused widespread delays a week ago, and prompted concerns about the country’s readiness for a planned switch from passports to biometrics.

An Australian parliamentary committee recently recommended the establishment of an oversight body for biometric data security as the country implements the technology more broadly.

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