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Facial recognition quietly deployed to Queensland stadiums

Fans at sporting events and concerts in Queensland, Australia have been unknowingly participating in real-time biometric facial recognition trials by Stadiums Queensland (SQ), a situation the state Privacy Commissioner expressed concern about, the ABC reports.

Venues operated by SQ display privacy warnings referring to the use of CCTV cameras, but do not refer to facial biometrics. Queensland Privacy Commissioner Phil Green says public notice and privacy impact assessments are recommended for all such large-scale implementations of the technology.

“The technology is getting better, but it’s been demonstrated that bias can creep in depending on what databases you’re using and who’s in the database, and then also the algorithms themselves,” he says.

A spokesperson for SQ confirmed that trial data was being shared with police, but said that the technology is currently only being used to identify patterns and anomalies in crowd behavior, such as abandoned bags.

Queensland is the third state in the country to trial facial recognition at major stadiums. The state’s Sports Minister Mick de Brenni said last year that SQ was considering implementing the technology as part of an $8.3 million (US$5.8 million) security upgrade.

Dr. Monique Mann, a research fellow in technology and regulation at the Queensland University of Technology said the trial raises several questions, such as where the database is drawn from, and how information is being stored and shared.

“The Australian public are not very aware of the extent of information that’s being collected and used about them,” Mann told the ABC. “This technology shouldn’t be implemented without proper public consultation and involvement of the community, and that’s not what we’re seeing.”

Australia is currently working its way through several related biometrics issues, as a Parliamentary Committee recently recommended the establishment of an oversight body for biometric data security and transparency, and an employment commission ruled a worker had been unfairly dismissed for refusing to use a biometric time and attendance system.

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