The Federal Government and States have entered into an Inter-Government Agreement to set up a national database to hold driver's licence photographs and identity information. The database may be used to conduct surveillance using facial recognition technology at public places such as airports or sporting events. This is a significant erosion of our right to privacy.
First, every person who applies for a driver's licence will effectively be consenting to being part of a national database. There is no requirement that a person has committed a criminal offence, or even suspected of committing a criminal offence.
Secondly, today’s proposal has been described as necessary to fight terrorism. However, the Agreement does not restrict the use of the database to terrorism or even serious crimes. The agreement lists in its purposes “General Law Enforcement”.
Thirdly, facial recognition technology has the potential to suppress freedom of expression. The impression that people are being “watched” by the government makes them less likely to engage in dissent.
Fourthly, face-matching technology enables mass surveillance. These are not "notional" civil liberties concerns. A government that can watch and identify any citizen, anywhere, has an extraordinary power to suppress dissent. We should not simply trust law enforcement or governments to use the technology responsibly. In the last year we have learned that an Australian Federal Police officer illegally accessed a journalist's phone metadata.
The use of face-matching technology must be transparent, confined, and it should only be used when strictly necessary. It must be subject to rigorous and clear restrictions. The Inter-Government Agreement states the system will protect privacy by design. We are not convinced the safeguards are sufficient to protect individual privacy and ensure the technology is only used to protect Australians from the most serious crime.
Liberty Victoria will provide further comments when the Federal Government produces legislation to support the scheme.
For more information, please refer to the Liberty Victoria press release at https://libertyvictoria.org.au/content/executive-detention.