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Biometrics for digital ID among AI-related issues to be reviewed by NSW parliamentary inquiry

Biometrics for digital ID among AI-related issues to be reviewed by NSW parliamentary inquiry
 

The government of Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) state is planning a parliamentary inquiry next year into the development and use of AI-based technologies such as facial recognition and biometrics for digital identity purposes.

The move is part of the state’s efforts to expand and simplify the use of these technologies to facilitate access to public services for state residents in a wide range of sectors, according to a government release.

Victor Dominello, the Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government, says the inquiry, which will be carried out by the state’s parliamentary Committee of Law and Safety, aims to explore ways through which the use of AI in the delivery of public services can be expanded to the entire state.

“AI has the potential to significantly improve service delivery and quality of life in a host of areas, including transport, health and cyber security. It is imperative that we remain at the forefront of this ever-emerging space,” says Dominello.

“Whether it’s facial recognition, use of biometrics to enable digital identity, or use of AI and algorithms for data analysis, we must strike the right balance between advancing technology and safeguarding privacy and security. The Committee will examine these issues in depth to help ensure our policies and legislative framework is fit-for-purpose,” he adds.

In a LinkedIn post, Dominello emphasized the ethical nature of his project along with more details of what he hopes it will cover: “I understand the reforming power of technology. I am also acutely aware of its destructive power – if we do not put guard rails in place. For this reason, I recently wrote to the Parliamentary Law and Safety Committee and asked for an inquiry into the ethical use of AI.”

The minister also listed other efforts which have already been made by the state to push ahead the AI development agenda such as the unveiling of an AI Strategy and Ethics Policy in 2020, developing and mandating an AI Assurance Framework in 2021, and establishing an AI Review Committee in 2022. The upcoming inquiry, he noted, will be built on this foundation.

Meanwhile, in a related report, InnovationAus mentions that the parliamentary committee has given its full nod to the AI inquiry proposal by the customer service and digital government minister.

The outlet cites Dominello as emphasizing the importance of introducing safeguards concerning the development and deployment of AI-based technologies such as facial recognition and biometric surveillance.

The inquiry, will among other things, examine the risks and harms associated with the use of some AI technologies, and how effective current state legislations are in containing such risks.

The proposed inquiry has received approbation from some experts with University of Technology Sydney professor and committee member Ed Santow telling Innovation Aus it will present “an opportunity to examine the existing legal framework, and set a reform agenda to modernise our laws.”

News of the planned parliamentary inquiry comes after the NSW Police recently defended the use of facial recognition for law enforcement.

Last year, the state appointed an 18-man digital ID advisory council with the mandate to work out a balance between digital ID privacy and trust, as part of the countrywide Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) initiative.

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