The Toowoomba City Council is trialling facial recognition technology, alarming privacy advocates who fear such a development could lead to bigger databanks of stored personal information.

The Toowoomba Regional Council has begun trialling the software on behalf of the Brisbane, Gold Coast and other Councils.

A roll-out of similar software has been supported by the Federal Government for passport processing in Australia and the Northern Territory Police are already using something similar.

Dr Monique Mann, a law lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology and member of the Australian Privacy Foundation said the Toowoomba Council’s decision was alarming.

Dr Mann has taken up a position adopted by Civil Liberties lawyer Terry O’Gorman for a substantial period namely that the facial recognition implementation scheme is being administratively carried out with no legislative framework and the increased scrutiny that the matter being debated by Parliament as a separate Act of Parliament entails.

Dr Mann said that the facial recognition technology could be used from a distance and that it can be integrated with existing surveillance systems through CCTV in public places enabling tracking through public faces in public places.

Civil Liberties lawyer Terry O’Gorman said that Dr Mann’s concerns were justified and reflected the stance of the Civil Liberties Council for many years namely significant extra powers given to Police are often implemented without any amendment to the Police Powers and Responsibilities.

“The use of pepper spray and tasers are a particular case in point where those processes have been administratively implemented by the Queensland Police Service over the last decade or more without there being the slightest debate in Parliament as to their efficacy and a proper supervision framework”, Mr O’Gorman said.

Mr O’Gorman said that there is a subtle and little publicised spread of CCTV surveillance in public places in Queensland affected not only by the facial recognition technology trial currently being undertaken in Toowoomba but also by the recent announcement of the Moreton Regional Council that CCTV cameras in public places in that Council’s area will have the facility to pick up what is being said by people subject to CCTV surveillance.[i]

By Terry O’Gorman

13 March 2017

[i] Some of the material from this blog has been taken from the ABC News of 8 March 2017.