Australia’s Department of Home Affairs has made a proposal to parliament to use facial recognition scans to verify a user’s age when attempting to view pornography online.
The service as proposed would scan the user’s face and match it against images of their official government ID. According to officials, the facial verification service would only be used under the proper consent of the law, as is the case with Australia’s now decade-old Document Verification Service, which cross-matches a person’s information with records from passports, drivers licenses and birth certificates. The inclusion of facial scans has yet to be approved for use in the Document Verification Service.
The proposal has met with criticism as an infringement on the privacy of citizens. “I think people should be very concerned about any government department that’s seeking to store this kind of information,” said Senator Rex Patrick a lawmaker from the state of South Australia.
However, proponents of the system say it could be a powerful tool in the fight against identity crimes, which the government claims cost the Australian economy AUD $2 billion each year.
“This could assist in age verification, for example by preventing a minor from using their parent’s driver (licence) to circumvent age verification controls,” the submission states.
A similar program to the one being proposed in Australia was recently rejected by parliament in the UK amid privacy concerns and technical shortcomings that would render the system insufficient.
Within Australia there is growing concern with regards to the Department of Home Affairs, which was formed two years ago and oversees all of Australia’s intelligence and national security agencies, and its ambitions for the use of facial recognition technologies and the expansion of its surveillance powers.
Elsewhere in the world there is a growing debate on the issue as well. In the U.S. the city of San Francisco has recently banned the use of facial recognition technologies by law enforcement, and in the state of Illinois there have been a number of lawsuits filed against corporations that use facial recognition for security and marketing purposes.
October 30, 2019 – By Tony Bitzionis