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Adelaide considers major facial recognition CCTV system

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Even though collection and use of biometric data of citizens including through facial recognition is largely unregulated and has increasingly been raising privacy alarms in Australia, law enforcement in one of its states, South Australia, plans to deploy precisely this technology.

Current privacy laws are viewed by experts as insufficient to properly cover this topic. For this reason, large retailers are among those using facial recognition without even needing to inform those subjected to this type of monitoring.

And the police in Adelaide does not appear to share any of the concerns as it prepares to receive funding for a public 360-degree CCTV camera system with facial and number plate recognition capabilities.

The City Council was last year opposed this, asking the police to delay the project until proper legal safeguards have been put in place.

Now Councilor Phil Martin is the most vocal in pointing out that systems that carry with them such privacy concerns should only be used with clear rules in place.

ABC News is reporting about this, noting that other members of the community are also against the plan, including because identification accuracy based on AI-processed biometrics drops when it comes to persons with darker skin.

However, the police seem determined to go ahead with the scheme regardless.

Martin’s position was cited by a statement issued by Monash University, which will on June 27 organize a public debate on facial recognition that will bring together academics, and government and industry representatives, where the school’s main argument is that the field needs consistent regulation.

Adelaide City Council should vote on the proposal to fund the new surveillance system only a day later. If approved, it will cost city $2.1 million.

Meanwhile, Adelaide Deputy Mayor Arman Abrahimzadeh is quoted as saying that the city is “comfortable” funding CCTV camera system upgrade as something necessary for public safety.

Abrahimzadeh also revealed that Adelaide asked the South Australia Police to provide assurances they will “not turn on” the new system until proper legislation is there to regulate its use.

But it appears no such assurance has yet arrived, or is about to.

“There is no legislative restriction on the use of facial recognition technology in South Australia for investigations,” the the state’s police told ABC News, adding:

“Should a facial recognition capability be available, investigators will consider the seriousness of the matter and evidentiary value when determining if it is appropriate to use the technology.”

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