Facial recognition is evolving – but the law is still a long way behind

Private companies and public authorities are quietly using facial recognition systems across Australia.

Despite the growing use of this controversial technology, there are few specific regulations and guidelines to govern its use.

Follow up with shoppers

We were reminded of this fact recently when consumer advocates at CHOICE revealed that major retailers in Australia are using technology to identify alleged thieves and perpetrators. tangled.

There is no question about harm and theft reduction goals. But there is also little transparency about how the technology is being used.

CHOICE found that most people were unaware that their faces were being scanned and matched to images stored in the database. Nor do they know how these databases are created, how accurate they are, and how secure the data they collect is.

When CHOICE finds out, notifying the customer is inadequate. It appears as small, barely noticeable marks in some cases. Elsewhere, the technology use reported in online notices is rarely read by customers.

Companies clearly don’t want to draw attention to their technology’s use or explain how it’s implemented.

Police Eager Something similar is happening with the Australian police’s use of technology. For example, police in New South Wales have embarked on a “low volume” test of a nationwide facial recognition database. This trial took place despite the fact that the law to facilitate national databases has not yet been passed.

In South Australia, controversy over plans to upgrade Adelaide’s CCTV system with facial recognition capabilities prompted the city council to vote against purchasing the necessary software. The council has also asked South Australian Police not to use facial recognition technology until there is legislation to regulate its use.

However, SA Police has shown interest in using the technology.

In a public statement, police described the technology as a potentially useful tool for investigating crimes. The statement also notes: “There are no legal restrictions on the use of facial recognition technology in South Australia for investigations.

A controversial tool

The Adelaide City Council’s call for regulation is a necessary response to expanding the use of automatic facial recognition.

This is a powerful technology that promises to fundamentally change our experience of privacy and anonymity. There is already a huge gap between the amount of personal information collected about us on a daily basis and our knowledge of how this information is being used, and facial recognition will only make this gap larger. than.

Recent events show a reluctance on the part of retailers and public agencies to make their use of technology public.

Although it is considered a potentially useful tool, it can be a controversial one. A world in which remote cameras can identify and track people as they move through public spaces seems alarmingly Orwellian.

The technology has also been criticized for being invasive and, in some cases, misleading and inaccurate. In the US, for example, people have been mistakenly caught based on matches made by facial recognition systems.

Public feedback

There is also widespread public opposition to the use of the technology in some US cities and states, which have gone as far as to impose bans on the use of the technology.

Surveys show that the Australian public has concerns about the invasiveness of this technology, but they also support its potential use to enhance public safety and security.

Facial recognition technology is not going away. It is likely to become cheaper, more accurate and more powerful in the near future. Instead of implementing it piecemeal, we need to confront both the potential harms and benefits of the technology directly, and lay out clear rules for its use.

What will the regulations be like? Last year, then-human rights commissioner Ed Santow called for a partial ban on the use of facial recognition technology. He is currently developing a model law on how it could be regulated in Australia.

Any regulation of technology will need to consider both the potential benefits of its use and the risks to privacy and civic life.

It will also need to consider enforceable standards for proper use. These may include the right to correct inaccuracies, the need to provide human confirmation of automated forms of identification, and the establishment of minimum standards of accuracy.

They may also require improved public consultation and consent around the use of technology and the performance requirements of systems accountable to an independent body and public researchers. turmeric.

As the scope of facial recognition expands, we need more public and parliamentary debate to develop the right regulations to govern its use.

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