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Adelaide considers CCTV system with facial recognition as calls for regulation intensify

Adelaide considers CCTV system with facial recognition as calls for regulation intensify

New deployments of facial recognition technology continue to raise questions in Australia, as experts call for changes to privacy law following revelations about the collection of sensitive biometric data by major retailers. Now a new hotspot has emerged in Adelaide, where community members are raising alarms about facial recognition capabilities in a proposed system of public CCTV security cameras.

City Council has asked the South Australia Police (SAPOL) not to employ the technology that uses artificial intelligence to match images captured on camera with existing photo databases., ABC News reports.

“Facial recognition raises real privacy concerns, and if it’s coming to our city we need to have clear guidelines for its use,” Phil Martin, a city councilor in Adelaide, was quoted as saying in an announcement from Monash University. Martin has led the request to restrict the use of biometric tech in the new, 360-degree CCTV cameras, which will also be enabled with number-plate recognition. Other community members have raised the issue of bias and fairness in AI systems, noting that some biometric systems have been shown to be less accurate at identifying faces with dark skin tones.

SAPOL has yet to respond directly to the request, but told ABC they would consider the appropriateness of available systems.

Academics with Monash are calling for consistent regulation, and the school is holding a public forum on facial recognition with contributions from industry, government and university experts on June 27, 2022.

Australia already has a national photo ID database, intended for eventual use by police and security forces. And facial recognition is already in wide use, prompting louder calls that policy reform must keep up with the pace of technological change. Some have called for laws specifically dedicated to FRT.

Last week, the consumer group Choice discovered that three of Australia’s major retailers, Kmart, Bunnings and The Good Guys, were employing facial recognition technology in their stores without obtaining proper consent from customers. Representatives from the retailers argued that they were using FRT responsibly, to reduce theft and monitor for potential violence.

Australian law considers biometric information, such as ‘faceprints’ captured using FRT, to be sensitive under law, meaning it is subject to stronger privacy protections, such as the requirement for obtaining active, not passive, consent.

Adelaide City Council is set to vote on $3 million Australian (approximately US$2.1 million) in funding for the new camera system on June 28.

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