The Adelaide City Council is in a standoff with the South Australia Police (SAPOL) over the use of facial recognition. Adelaide is planning to replace its outdated City Safe CCTV network with more modern 360-degree cameras with more robust computer vision capabilities.
The problem is that South Australian lawmakers have not yet passed any kind of law to regulate the use of facial recognition tech. With that in mind, the City Council has asked SAPOL to refrain from using facial recognition with the new cameras until legislation is passed. The Council formalized the request with a motion in November. SAPOL has declined to respond, and has instead indicated that it is planning to use facial recognition in statements to the press.
The proposed CCTV network will be built with federal funding, though will ultimately be co-owned by City Council and SAPOL. The total price tag is expected to run to $3 million, with City Council scheduled to vote to approve that funding and the project itself on June 28. It’s unclear if SAPOL’s intransigence will affect that decision.
For its part, SAPOL has acknowledged the City Council’s request. However, its statement to the press stresses that there are no laws that prevent the police from using facial recognition, and that it will plans to use the tech in situations it deems appropriate. The Australian Human Rights Commissioner, meanwhile, has called for a temporary ban on the tech, citing law enforcement as a use case with a high-risk of a severely negative outcome if the technology is misused.
“Facial recognition raises real privacy concerns, and if it’s coming to our city we need to have clear guidelines for its use,” said Adelaide City Councillor Phil Martin.
SAPOL already has access to some facial recognition tools, and has been working with NEC’s NeoFace software since as far back as 2016. The new CCTV network would presumably be more robust, and also comes with license plate recognition capabilities.
Adelaide City Council will discuss issues related to facial recognition during a public forum on June 27, one day before the scheduled vote. The evening will feature a panel of high-profile experts, including former Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow.
South Australia has passed a law that requires the use of facial recognition as a security measure in gaming establishments. Several Australian retail outlets have also set up their own internal facial recognition systems.
June 21, 2022 – by Eric Weiss