Is face recognition applicable in Australia?

——The Application of Technology and the priority of Privacy

Facial recognition system
"Skepticgate-App“ by Brianfit is licensed with CC BY 2.0

 

Introduction

Face recognition is a biometric recognition technology which uses facial feature information to identify the individual. At present, as a technical representative of Internet innovation and artificial intelligence, face recognition is favored by more and more entrepreneurs and government departments. As a result, it has become one of the hot areas in the field of entrepreneurship and investment (Sharif et al., 2012). However, due to the need to collect information such as face images, this technology continues to infringe upon the right to privacy in the process of application. Especially in China. China is the largest developing country, and the application of technology has always been given priority by the state. But the situation in Australia does not seem to be the same. If there is a conflict between face recognition technology and the right to privacy, who will be protected? This essay will focus on the issue of privacy caused by face recognition technology in the context of Internet transformation, and discuss this concept and its development history, as well as the reasons why face recognition technology should or should not be applied in the context of Australia.

 

Historical background of face recognition system

Face recognition systems are related to computer programs that analyze face images to recognize them. It was invented in 1960s. After 1980, due to the breakthrough of computer technology and optical photography technology, face recognition technology also tends to mature. (Electronic Privacy Information Center, 2006). So far, it has been used in many fields. Looking at the whole world, the market scale of face recognition technology industry is constantly expanding. However, face recognition technology has always been controversial in society. For example, in Allyn’s news report (2020), Amazon banned police from using its Face recognition technology. Amazon’s face recognition technology can use machine learning to quickly compare a person’s images on social media and other networks and find suitable matching options from thousands of face images (Allyn, 2020). Although the technology is advanced, Nicole Ozel, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Northern California, says it needs to be banned altogether. Amazon’s face recognition technology poses a danger to black and brown communities and to broader civil rights. Finally, Amazon’s face recognition technology was banned for a year (Allyn, 2020). It can be seen that there is a lot of controversy about the advantages and disadvantages of facial recognition systems. There are also different arguments about whether it applies to Australia.

Amazon developed face recognition project interface.
Amazon developed face recognition project interface. Image: Internet, Some rights reserve

 

Australia should introduce face recognition technology

Face recognition is a technology that can verify or identify people from digital images or video clips. The technology is increasingly versatile, from unlocking the phone with the face to identifying criminals. Therefore, recognizing its potential, governments are investing in the development of their own facial recognition systems for law enforcement. Australia is no exception, it should use this technology.

First of all, as a powerful facial recognition and monitoring system, face recognition technology can be used for criminal identity recognition. The database compares biometric information with selected photos of suspects by extracting biometric information from citizens’ passports, visas, driver’s licenses and other government documents (Jain, 2020). This can accurately identify criminals and reduce the work of the police. Therefore, in consideration of security, the police and the public have the motivation to promote the development of face recognition technology.

Secondly, face recognition technology can promote digital governance. “The Australia’s Digital Economy: Future Directions” released by the Australian Ministry of Broadband, Communications and Digital economy (2009) points out that open access to public sector information is beneficial to the digital economy. Face recognition technology involves citizen information, and the public sector usually holds the right to use this information. If the government can apply face recognition technology on the premise of ensuring the information security of citizens, the administrative efficiency and social benefits can be greatly improved.

Finally, face recognition technology can bring people a convenient life. Biometric technology has been paid attention to and applied mainly because of the increasing demand for security and convenience. Commercially speaking, recent biometric technologies have the ability to create a big market for each use (Hwang, & Kee,2004).  For example, this technology is used in China’s national identity cards and mobile payments. It can not only be used to verify the identity of users, but also make travel and payment more and more convenient (Hwang, & Kee,2004). Therefore, while facilitating people’s lives, face recognition technology also helps the efficiency of law enforcement agencies and can even produce huge economic and social effects. Hence, it should be applied in Australia.

 

Australia should not introduce face recognition technology

However, unlike China’s positive attitude in developing face recognition technology, Australia has always been cautious in using this technology. Therefore, there are many reasons not to use this technology in Australia at present.

First, face recognition technology endangers the security of students’ personal information. The Victorian government of Australia explicitly forbids public schools in the state from using face recognition systems unless they have the consent of parents, students and the education administration (Yang, 2019). Because when students are active in the school, small and inconspicuous face recognition devices can be easily installed in all spaces to identify students and locate the whole school in real time, which will greatly infringe upon the privacy of students.

Second, face recognition technology will provide an opportunity for the government to invade citizens’ privacy. In fact, Australian laws are increasingly paying their attention to face recognition to keep pace with changes. One thing is clear: the sharing of electronic data needs to follow the principle of privacy, including the government (Rick,2020). This makes the application of some face recognition technology questionable. For example, Gavin Jennings protested that the government’s face recognition campaign aims to collect not only information about driver’s license, but also age card information (such as age, address, etc.), some of which include photos of children around the age of 12. This greatly violates the privacy rights of Australian citizens. Moreover, the information collected by face recognition technology may be used and leaked by private enterprises. This is very likely to allow citizens’ personal information to be used by illegal businesses. This will cause the leakage of personal information, and the serious ones may suffer property and economic losses due to fraud. In addition, Daly and Thomas (2017) mentioned in their article that Australians are firmly opposed to private companies having access to face recognition databases. Therefore, face recognition technology is still not suitable for Australia, because it easily infringes on privacy rights and even triggers a series of chain risks.

 

Australia’s New Facial Recognition Laws – What they mean for you
Australia’s New Facial Recognition Laws – What they mean for you
Image:Internet, Some rights reserved

Therefore, it can be found that the key point in determining whether Australia should use face recognition technology is the priority of technology application and privacy. Overall, Australia believes that the negative impact of face recognition technology is greater than the positive impact. The Australian Human Rights Law Center’s assessment of the identity Services Act pointed out that without corresponding legal protection, a comprehensive face recognition project will have a significant negative impact on privacy, freedom of expression, race relations and many other aspects.

However, in my opinion, face recognition technology in Australia will be popularized as easily as in China. Although the advantages of face recognition system can not be denied, and the trend of its wide application is irreversible, it is necessary to strictly manage it.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the reason why facial recognition technology should be used in Australia is closely related to local politics, economy, culture, privacy and so on. Face recognition technology not only facilitates people’s lives, but also brings economic benefits. However, it also brings potential risks such as infringement of privacy. Moreover, I think Australia’s privacy protection experience is correct, but Australia can also learn from China’s brave use of government-led face recognition technology in some key areas.

 

 

References

 Allyn, B. (2020). “Amazon Halts Police Use Of Its Facial Recognition Technology”. Retrieved from:

https://www.npr.org/2020/06/10/874418013/amazon-halts-police-use-of-its-facial-recognition-technology

Daly, A. & Thomas, J. (2017). Australian internet policy. Internet Policy Review, 6(1). DOI: 10.14763/2017.1.457

DOB Communications & TD Economy, (2009). Australia’s Digital Economy: Future Directions, Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from:

https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/20090717033103/http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/102861/20090717-1104/www.dbcde.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/117786/DIGITAL_ECONOMY_FUTURE_DIRECTIONS_FINAL_REPORT.pdf

Electronic Privacy Information Center. (2006). “Face Recognition.” Retrieved from:

http://www.epic.org/privacy/facerecognition/

Hwang, W. & Kee, S. C. (2004). International Standardization on Face Recognition Technology. Chinese Conference on Biometric Recognition. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Jain, R. (2020).“The Capability – Australia’s facial recognition tech & how accurate it might be”, News AI. Retrieved from:

https://itmunch.com/the-capability-australia-facial-recognition-clearview-ai-tech-companies/

Rick, S. (2020). “Facial recognition technology is expanding rapidly across Australia. Are our laws keeping pace?”. Retrieved from:

https://techxplore.com/news/2020-07-facial-recognition-technology-rapidly-australia.html

Sharif, M. , Mohsin, S. , & Javed, M. Y. . (2012). A survey: face recognition techniques. Research Journal of Applied ences Engineering & Technology, 4(23), 1-10.

Yang, X. (2019). Australia: schools are required to use face recognition systems cautiously. People’s Education (09), 17.

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About Yue Zhuang 2 Articles
Hello, my name is Yue Zhuang and I am currently studying digital culture at the University of Sydney. I hope readers will like my article.