Mass surveillance a threat, warns civil liberties group

The Andrews Government should follow the lead of the ACT and challenge plans for a new facial recognition database, Liberty Victoria said today.

The human rights’ group President George Georgiou SC said police would get frightening access to personal information without adequate safeguards through the collection of 100 million images.

“There has been no case put forward that this is a reasonable, necessary and proportionate response, given the deprivation of privacy that is involved.

“The public need to be aware that the Government has said there will be no public consultation on these massive measures.”

The $18.5 million programme is called The Capability and can include facial images collected from social media and stills from CCTV. “There's no real obstacle preventing law enforcement agencies from collecting and using such images,” Mr Georgiou said.

An official privacy impact assessment of the program said it would leave a metadata trail which could lead to increased tracking or surveillance of individuals.

The Capability will give police and security operatives agencies quick access to images from databases around Australia, including drivers' licences, passport photos, Facebook and Instagram. The photos are to be coordinated through a system called The Hub to help agencies identify people and investigate cross-border crime.

Mr Georgiou said the assessment found that if the program’s functions were expanded, it could lead to people being forced to produce a photo ID more often.

“In a democratic society people have the right to anonymity and not, as in some other less democratic countries, be forced to constantly show an ID,” Mr Georgiou said.

“As well, the privacy assessment tells us that that biometric and biographic information could be vulnerable to hacking or interception, leaving open the possibility of people being compromised forever.”