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Australian state poised for facial recognition to tackle problem gambling draws criticism

Australian state poised for facial recognition to tackle problem gambling draws criticism

Australia’s New South Wales state is bent on installing facial recognition systems in clubs and pubs from next year to identify problem gamblers who have adhered to a “self-exclusion” program.

While the state government holds that the move is necessary to tackle a problem that affects about one percent of Australians, critics are raising many counterarguments questioning the system’s effectiveness. They express concerns about data protection and privacy, in particular, according to a report first published by Reuters.

Meanwhile, a draft text introduced in parliament last month to amend a law that will formalize the use of facial recognition technology in clubs and pubs has now been abandoned.

Nonetheless, proponents of the move, such as the ClubsNSW and the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), say they are going ahead with biometrics deployments and that all necessary mechanisms will be in place to ensure privacy protection. ClubsNSW is the umbrella lobby that acts on behalf of all clubs in New South Wales.

The system means all pubs and clubs will have cameras that will identify faces and match them with an existing database to check if a person seeking access to a pub or club has joined the self-exclusion program. If matched, the person will be denied access.

John Green, director of AHA for NSW, is quoted by Reuters as saying that all the data collected for the purpose will be encrypted, and no third party, including police and gambling providers will have access to it.

For others, like digital rights advocate Samantha Floreani, the move is invasive and dangerous and infringes on citizens’ fundamental human rights.

“People who opt into self-exclusion programs deserve meaningful support, rather than having punitive surveillance technology imposed upon them. And those who have not opted into these programs ought to be able to go to the pub without having their faces scanned and their privacy undermined,” says Floreani.

Others have called for a regulation defining the use of facial recognition before such technology is deployed.

This plan to install facial recognition technology in pubs and clubs recently sparked concerns among rights advocates when ClubNSW suggested the system could be used in public spaces beyond just identifying problem gamblers.

There have been calls to halt the use of facial recognition technology in Australia in the past.

Facial recognition benefits for clubs

Meanwhile, Exact Technologies, a company that sells security solutions developed by partners Corsight and SAFR from RealNetworks, is arguing in a promotional article that using facial recognition technologies has several benefits for pubs, clubs and gaming houses.

Some of the clubs are already deploying the facial recognition system from Exact Technologies, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The company argues that using the technology in these places can lead to strengthened security, improved access control, tighter self-exclusion programs, enhanced customer service, and reduced contact.

The article, however, notes important considerations in determining whether deploying facial recognition technology is suitable for certain operations.

The company also says that its facial recognition platform serves the Australian business environment and is calling on potential customers to sign up for an “obligation-free” demonstration.

Also in gambling-related news, Yoti recently announced its age estimation technology is being piloted in gambling machines or 18+ gaming terminals in the UK.

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