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Australia’s Unique Use Of Facial Recognition Technology Can Make It A World Leader In The Field

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If anyone in Western Australia contracts Covid-19, they are expected to remain in home quarantine for seven days. The police check up on their whereabouts by sending periodic text messages and require a selfie to be sent back to them within 15 minutes. The police use facial recognition technology and GPS tracking to determine if the person who took the selfie is at home. If they are not, they quickly follow up with a knock on the door and a potentially hefty fine, according to the BBC.

The app in question – G2G app developed by local technology start-up Genvis is been used by more that 150,000 people. Rolled out in 2020, the same technology, albeit provided by different firms, has been used on a pilot basis in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

The BBC report clarified that, Australia stands out as the only democracy to use facial recognition technology to aid Covid-19 containment procedures while other countries were pushing back against the idea of such surveillance.

Meanwhile in the United States, San Francisco in the state of California introduced a moratorium in May 2019 preventing law enforcement from employing facial recognition followed by Oakland, and Somerville in Massachusetts. Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Google have declared they will not sell their facial recognition algorithms to law enforcements agencies until a federal law is in place, according to the BBC.

The Australian Human Rights Commission too has called for a moratorium on facial recognition technology until the country has a proper law to regulate its usage. Human rights campaigners say the technology could potentially make the country a surveillance state while Amnesty International warns that it can be used for racial profiling.

“The pandemic created all these new justifications for using facial recognition technology,” says Mark Andrejevic, a professor of media studies at Monash University in Melbourne and the author of a forthcoming book titled Facial Recognition. “Everything went online and organisations were trying to make things work very quickly. But the implications haven’t been thought through. Do we want to live in a world where everything is rendered and there are no private spaces? It creates a whole new level of stress that does not lead to a healthy society.”

Despite the challenges in the path towards regulation to date, Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Edward Santow is optimistic that Australia could become a world leader in regulating facial recognition. “I can’t speak on behalf of the federal and state governments. But I know that they understand there are strong community concerns and there is a need to build trust in the technology.”

“I perceive the greatest challenge not to be drafting a watertight law, but in making sure that the law itself isn’t ignored,” said Santow.

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