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A Justice Ministry report dating back to 2015, announced the plans by the Australian Government to implement a facial recognition technology. In their report, the government had allocated $18.5 to fund the project which was given an odd name – “the Capability.” The project which was kick-started in September 2015, was anticipated to cross-check millions of faces at a time. The system would use random faces and reference them to up to four registered user images of residents, including photos from driving licenses, passports, national IDs as well as shots from CCTV footage. However, it was shocking that no one was alarmed by the project plans – making the project unveil smoothly.

Developments of the Facial Recognition system advanced in February this year when Peter Dutton, the then newly elected Minister for Home Affairs introduced two Bills to the House of Representatives. The first Bill was to allow for the creation of a Facial recognition system. The other Bill was to enable the Department of Home Affairs to run the program – to help communicate between various intelligence agencies.

Moreover, according to ABC, facial recognition technology is already in use at a Crown Casino located in Melbourne. The system works by identifying important guests (VIP) and banned guests as well. Besides, the South Australian Police is also already using the face-recognition system to look for missing persons.

What this means for you – Privacy concerns

It is, without doubt, a matter of privacy concern – filing faces of each resident is alarming. And as for the privacy counsellors, they will argue that these radical moves are stripping away. Citing testimonies from private groups, John Lawrence contends that the move is utterly inappropriate and a betrayal of fundamental civil liberty of all Australian residents. John also says. “If implemented, it will ensure that the presumption of innocence no longer has any effective meaning in this country. Such an untargeted, mass surveillance database is just the latest attempt by governments to categorise everyone as potential suspects, not citizens.”

According to Singleton Norton, chair of Digital Rights Watch, he argues that the move for facial recognition will require citizens to trust the government to protect user data. In addition, Stephen Banks claimed that people still don’t know the implication so of facial recognition in their lives. He adds his fears that the new era will change the people’s behavior. Moreover, he voices his worries that by the time Australian residents realise what has happened to them, it will already be too late.

Possible data breaches?

In the past, we’ve cited several inter-agency data breaches, including the Australian Federal Police in 2017, the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016, as we as the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in 2016 too. All this data breaches happened in the post facial recognition period, implying that the government should have upgraded its security systems by then.

It is shocking at how the government official choose to fight back with worrying statements. For instance, Turnbull when questioned about the possible data breaches on the new face recognition systems, he argues that there is already “enormous amount” of personal data leaked already. According to him, more personal data has already been leaked in the past, than it will in the future – a classic showdown at how much the government cares about your data. “The vast bulk of it is actually in the private sector and most of it, if you think about the amount of personal data, photographs and so forth, that are held on Facebook accounts, I think around three-quarters of Australians have Facebook accounts, so there is a lot of data out there,” Turnbull says.

What are Fake IDs – its effects on facial recognition

Fake IDs always tend to use a fake identity of another person, or details belonging to a different person. In addition, a fake ID can be used to hide the known physical appearance of an individual, by altering their looks and changing their names and addresses.

The practice of using fake IDs has always existed over the years, and no government agency has been able to curb the practice. According to a study, there is a 14% error chance of systems scanning for IDs in a public station, to report a fake ID in use. Meaning, to date we still don’t have an ideal system for eradicating the use of fake IDs in Australia. And until the Australian authorities decide to take action against sites that openly sell fake IDs, then facial recognition system will not be a long term solution.