Lawyers warn over Australia's face recognition plans
04 May 2018 14:03 GMT

A national facial recognition scheme could be misused for social surveillance, say Australian lawyers.

Law Council president Morry Bailes told a parliamentary committee there was a chance a planned national "face-matching" system could be abused.

"Clearly the provision of such capability has been determined by Government as desirable to facilitate the detection of would-be terrorists, by scoping a site for potential terrorist attacks," Bailes said.

"But that very same identity-matching capability might also be used for a range of activities that Australian citizens regard as unacceptable.

"Examples include accessing CCTV footage to detect, investigate or prosecute young people who may allegedly be engaged in certain low-level unlawful conduct."

He said the Federal Government had not been clear about what the scheme could and could not be used for.

He raised concerns that without adequate oversight, it could be used to identify jay-walkers or even spiral into "a full social credit style system of government surveillance".

"Identity-matching services are legitimised through citizen trust of what governments are doing and that trust is hard gained and in today's world, easily eroded and hard to regain," Mr Bailes said.

Home Affairs deputy secretary Maria Fernandez refuted Mr Bailes' claims and said the proposed scheme was misunderstood, reported ABC.

Ms Fernandez said only a small number of agencies would have access to the pooled data, and it could only be supplied by the Home Affairs Department.

"The bill does not authorise the department to use new data sets of images from individuals that are not already lawfully collected and held by Government," she said.

Private companies, she said, would only be able to access the data for verification purposes and with that person's consent.