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Australia lobby group ClubsNSW seeks more facial recognition in clubs; debates rages

Australia lobby group ClubsNSW seeks more facial recognition in clubs; debates rages
 

A law recently introduced in state parliament by the government of Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) to allow the deployment of facial recognition technology in pubs and clubs to identify gambling suspects, has stirred debate after the country’s umbrella body for clubs (ClubsNSW) insinuated the technology could be expanded to other purposes.

According to a report by The Guardian Australia, ClubsNSW had earlier said the technology will be used only for purposes of enforcing self-exclusion by problem gamblers, but the lobby group is now suggesting it could be extended to tracking, identifying and expelling people from clubs for being either drunk or quarrelsome.

These developments, per The Guardian, follow the recent release of a report by the NSW crime commission revealing how billions of dollars of ill-gotten money are being spent in clubs and pubs by gamblers. The scope of the issue has shifted the focus of the debate towards the prevention of money laundering.

The report also suggests the introduction of a cashless gambling card, which will make information gathering easier for authorities tracing how proceeds from crime are spend in the state.

The Guardian Australia writes that it contacted ClubsNSW to clarify its position on the use of facial recognition, but the lobby group rather directed the publication to the legislation introduced in parliament making the use of facial recognition technology in pubs, clubs and other public venues formal.

ClubsNSW however did not respond to several requests for comment from the outlet on whether it looks forward to deploying facial recognition for purposes beyond just enforcing self-exclusion for gamblers.

Aside the ClubsNSW’s possible shift of position on the use of facial recognition in clubs, another concern raised is the fact that guidelines under which the technology will be deployed do not yet exist.

Kate Bower, a Choice consumer data campaigner is quoted by The Guardian as saying that without the required regulation in place, facial recognition will be deployed at the whims and caprices of business owners, which could be abusive. She also mentions the issue of consent, insisting it is a concern “because most people entering these premises aren’t aware facial recognition is being used and for what purpose it is being used.”

Meanwhile, in a related report by The Guardian Australia, concerns have also been raised by the Labor party of NSW about the crime commission’s proposal for a cashless gambling card.

The NSW opposition Labor leader Chris Minns has refused to back the plan despite support for it by other lawmakers, saying there is need for more consideration. The cashless gambling card idea is also opposed by ClubsNSW.

Minns and the Premier Dominic Perrottet have each agreed to carry out industry consultations on the cashless gambling card. “But given the complexity of it, we need to make sure and look at what people are putting on the table before I give a blanket support for a proposal that I haven’t seen,” Minns is quoted as saying.

The Labor leader has also voiced concerns against the proposed amendments to formalize the deployment of facial recognition in pubs and clubs across the state, as have privacy advocates.

Next year, the NSW government plans a parliamentary inquiry into the development and use of AI-powered technologies such as biometrics for digital identity.

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