Tuesday, 16 July 2019 14:12

EFA calls for ban on Chinese-style facial recognition in Australia Featured

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EFA calls for ban on Chinese-style facial recognition in Australia Image by teguhjati pras from Pixabay

Digital rights organisation Electronic Frontiers Australia has warned that facial recognition, of the sort used by China to violate the rights of its Uighur Muslim minority, is already being used in Australia.

Reacting to the screening of an investigative program by the ABC on Monday night about the way Uighurs were treated by Beijing, EFA chair Lyndsey Jackson said in a statement that the program had shown that Australian universities, researchers and technology firms were collaborating with oppressive regimes to use facial recognition against vulnerable groups.

She said people may not be aware that similar systems were being installed in Australia. As an example, Queensland Police had used facial recognition during the last Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast, saying it was used to protect against terrorism.

But soon after, the same system was used for general policing, Jackson said. "Stadiums Queensland continues to use facial recognition at its venues. Perth council is pushing ahead with its own facial recognition trial despite opposition from local residents," she added.

More alarmingly, Jackson pointed out that federal authorities were actively seeking to build a system called The Capability that could use facial recognition all across the country.

“We see the same language being used in Australia as used by the Chinese government”, she said. “It’s justified as being about terrorism, but that’s just a word used to stop people thinking about what’s actually going on. It’s really about using state power to abuse vulnerable groups.

“And it’s all happening without any community consultation or debate. These systems are just being imposed on us, in secret.”

Some jurisdictions, like San Francisco in the US, had already banned the use of facial recognition systems, Jackson noted.

“With the Australian Government already going so far as to raid journalists for exposing government misdeeds, and refusing to rule out prosecuting them for crimes, it’s easy to see how these systems will be abused," she said.

“Australians should immediately call for all facial recognition systems in Australia to be removed. All facial recognition projects should be halted, and no more should be started.

“We’ve already gone much too far with mass surveillance in Australia. Australians need to stand up for their own privacy and freedom and say 'No More'.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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