SA Police want face recognition CCTV everywhere

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blog It’s getting harder and harder to pretend that South Australia’s police force isn’t hell-bent on turning the state into the sort of universal surveillance nightmare that George Orwell envisioned in his seminal novel 1984. Over recent months, SA Police has outlined plans to use drones to keep tabs on criminals, deploy automated fingerprint recognition systems to police officers’ smartphones, and now they’ve outlined plans for a somewhat universal CCTV/facial recognition system throughout the state. We can’t find the Labor Government’s official media release, but the ABC has some info on the scheme. The media outlet writes (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“Police will make greater use of facial recognition technology for tackling crime, if Labor is re-elected … Attorney-General John Rau said facial recognition technology was used successfully in the investigation of last year’s Boston marathon bombings.”

The Advertiser has more (again, click here for the full article):

“The facial recognition software would tap into footage captured by the network of government, council and private CCTV cameras around the state. It would, in real time, match faces with photos loaded into the system by police. An alarm is triggered when a known criminal is identified.”

I’m conscious that law and order is a big issue in South Australia. But doesn’t this sort of system strike anyone as massive overkill, with the potential for huge overreach and abuse? You can imagine the potential if the whole statewide police force has access to it. Police officer suspects their spouse of cheating? Just enter their name into the system and watch for any movements on the local CCTV cameras. Politician needs dirt on their opposition (perhaps someone has a slightly unusual sex life)? Just ask a friendly cop to enter some new facial data into the system and track the many CCTV cameras found in red light districts. Never mind its dubious application to the so-called category of “missing people”, some of whom may not actually want to be found.

It’s true that privacy rights are being rapidly eroded in Australian society through the over-zealous application of technology. And it may be true that the end of privacy is near, for those same reasons. But I don’t quite want privacy to die quite so quickly.

These days, I can’t earn money without the Australian Taxation Office automatically tracking things through my bank account. I can’t browse web sites or send emails without some concern that law enforcement authorities have access to my Internet records. And of course anytime I buy anything from anyone, I assume the police can track that too. I’d just like to be able to pop down to the shops quickly now and then for a packet of chips without some police system automatically scanning my face for matches with some massive crime database. Is that too much to ask?

Image credit: Anja Ranneberg, royalty free

10 COMMENTS

  1. If governments around the world are ok taking photos from inside people’s homes ie. from xbox and computer cameras (thinking the hack on yahoo!), then this is completely acceptable…

  2. I’ve seen first hand how effective LPR (License Plate Recognition) is and how easy it is to automate the software to take action. Would be scary to see how well Facial Recognition would work on a large scale with Analytics. It makes The TV show “Persons of Intrest” look like a reality show.

  3. its because they now spend less time teaching police how to investigate and more time teaching them how to respond. that’s why very little crime is actually investigated anymore, and tickets are just handed out like candy on Halloween. Nowadays its a numbers game, you have to rbt so many, ticket so many, drug test so many, and then the government can use this numbers to hire more police because they are so busy. meanwhile theft goes practically uninvestigated, because it doesn’t make money for police.

    Welcome to the police shop state, where if you don’t buy something we’ll ticket you.

  4. Will they next outlaw wearing oversize sunglasses and the covering of the head or mouth ? Because that will be my new look – looking like a member of Pussy Riot while outdoors might become de rigueur in the perverse dystopia that Adelaide is becoming – I agree with Brad Cann, my recent contacts with SAPOL after property damage, and then my car being collided with, they give you a report number and berate you for not doing your business with them via their website, God forbid they should have to deal with you face to face or actually follow something up – no we don’t want your photos of the graffiti or the fingerprints on the windows, no we can’t give you the name of the truck driver who was driving the truck that wrecked your external mirror but wouldn’t give you his details, yes he should have but maaate we won’t prosecute him, it’s only a $250 mirror maaate, do an FOI to maybe get his details if the officer has actually followed this report up, maaate…

    Why isn’t there an uproar at the notion that police and public servants unknown to you could track you, follow you, run you for warrants or money owing, simply because you are in range of their cameras ? What happened to the naive notion that if you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about ? As if I didn’t have enough reasons to move away from this joint already…

        • If it had a planet that had temperatures similar to Scandinavia, ample fresh water and an atmosphere similar to Earth’s in pre-homo sapiens times, and even better no parasitic insects such as mosquitoes, or even better again, no icky or dangerousanimals at all, just a lot of ferns and edible plants and stuff, I’d definitely be up for that option, BuildFTTP.

          Scotty, beam us up… engage warp speed…

      • Ideally, to a less technologically advanced, more chaotic place, like much of S E Asia, or somewhere that respects limits to the State’s invasion of personal individual rights and freedoms, wherever the fk that is…

        But there would be few places with a populus more compliant, obedient and dim than Adelaide’s – the place is filling up with surveillance devices and speed cameras, government is constantly wanting information about your finances, your details, yet it gets harder and harder to get information from the government…

        You can no longer just browse the Federal Electoral Rolls – the Gillard government withdrew that ‘privilege’ – now you can only look at the Rolls for the purpose of checking an enrolment is legal or valid… no more looking to get addresses…

        FOIs from the government take longer and longer, and they charge more and more, police can subject you to searches, police dogs can sniff your crotch, on the pretext that you might have ‘drugs’… you can be pulled over in SA without having broken any laws, simply to be breath tested, have your car roadworthied or details checked – no ‘reasonable cause to suspect’ needed any more…

        To visit prisons now requires you submit to having a retina scan – which will be kept indefinitely – yes, for the fabulous pleasure of a short visit to a dump of a prison now requires surrendering your unique retinal details… given that they are now coding up drivers licence photos for face recognition in NSW, Queensland and presumably SA, as well as all the stuff on the Federal Crimtrac database, the notion of a 1984 style surveillance state is a mouse click away…

        If I thought our politicians, police and public servants were all honest, intelligent, altruistic, and devoid of personal agendas I might be more relaxed than I am, given that I’ve seen too much of human nature at work in my life thus far that included working for the government and politicians…

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