The South Australian government is hoping to procure a mobile app that will use facial recognition and geo-tracking to keep tabs on citizens quarantining in their homes. The app would initiate check-ins at random intervals throughout the day, forcing users to take a selfie to prove that they are still at home and complying with the terms of quarantine.
In that regard, the app would use geo-tracking to verify the phone’s location, before using facial recognition to make sure that the quarantined individual has that phone at hand. The app would only be offered to South Australia residents who are eligible for the state’s quarantine at home program. Any international travelers will still be sent to quarantine at dedicated medi-hotels set up specifically for the purpose.
Once the app is delivered, the government is hoping that it will mitigate the need to send police officers to check in on people in quarantine, which will in turn reduce the administrative burden and free up police resources for other projects. However, the police would still perform infrequent checks, and would be called in if someone breaks their quarantine. The government has not yet procured an app, but hopes to have a system running within the next few months.
“The new app could add another layer of protection to the Marshall Liberal Government’s already strong plan to protect South Australians from COVID-19,” said Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade.
Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner has argued that the police should not use facial recognition until the country can pass more meaningful privacy legislation, although that does not seem to have deterred the government of South Australia in this particular case. In the US, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has similarly argued that the COVID-19 crisis does not give the state of California the right to encroach on people’s civil liberties.
November 6, 2020 – by Eric Weiss