Quietly, the New South Wales government in Australia has been collecting data on its citizens with the goal being a compilation of every person’s face in the country. The need for such a system is argued to be so that every CCTV camera can recognize an individual as soon as they are captured on CCTV.
Experts said yesterday few people realised their facial features were being recorded in an RTA database of drivers licence photos that the Government has allowed both state and federal police to access
The federal body CrimTrac has asked NSW for its database so it can be mined nationally by police using the facial recognition information contained in it.
Problems will arise from such a monumental undertaking as facial recognition is not anywhere near 100% accuracy.
University experts in facial recognition said the correct match rate was as low as 90 per cent, meaning the names of people with faces sharing a similar structure to criminals could be returned in searches.
Dr Carolyn Semmler from the University of Adelaide said police wanted to eventually use facial recognition in smart CCTV cameras allowing people to be tracked anywhere there was a camera.
While some may say that they don’t care if their information is collected so long as it prevents crime, a 90% accuracy rate is not good enough. This means that in large cities, such as London, up to 3000 people per day are wrongly identified. Will you still understand when the police barge in your house at 3am and make you and your children lie face down on the floor because you’ve been pegged as a pedophile, rapist, drug dealer or terrorist?
NSW Opposition police spokesman Mike Gallacher said most people were unaware their face had been mapped when they applied for or had their licences renewed, allowing them to potentially be tracked.
There is a fundamental problem with the government when they freely invade people’s privacy and then neglect to tell them that it is even happening. The RTA has been compiling this new database since last December, meaning that anyone who has renewed their license in that time has had their facial features mapped and placed into the database.
While this is being done in the name of national security and the prevention of using driver’s licenses fraudulently, it is a huge invasion of privacy. Before removing residents’ civil liberties, there should have been debate and discussion. Instead, the New South Wales government felt it necessary to not inform anyone of what was occurring. This is, most likely, because no one would have wanted it.
Couple the facial recognition to CCTV with the GO card, and ANPR and you’ve got a very nice system that can personally track you every single step of your day. Everyone hopes that none of this technology will be abused, however, we’ve seen time and again that it can and is on a regular basis.
I don’t intentionally break the law. I do everything possible to preserve my privacy, but being tracked and misidentified is not something I can control. I cannot trust those with the power to not abuse it, leaving me with the only recourse possible. Everyone needs to write to their MPs now while there’s still a chance to change things.