Perth and Brisbane roll out facial recognition tech

Via The Guardian:

Perth City council is pressing ahead with a trial of facial recognition technology to be installed in cameras across East Perth, despite concerns from privacy experts and local residents.

The network of 30 cameras is set to go live within weeks, amid complaints there has been no proper local consultation since the plans were revealed last year.

The cameras are equipped with software that uses deep-learning AI to recognise faces, count passing people and vehicles and track movement. The council said the system was going through final tests, and was expected to be activated within a few weeks.

The secretary of the East Perth Community Safety Group, Lyn Schwan, said she was not aware of any community consultation about the trial.

“The facial recognition aspect of the new camera network was news to me,” she said. “I feel that the community should have been better informed. Whether residents want to take it further or not is up to them, but we should have been told.”

The chairman of Digital Rights Watch, Tim Norton, questioned whether such systems were an effective tool to tackle crime.

“There is no empirical evidence that supports the assertion that blanket surveillance is effective at preventing serious crime and terrorism either domestically or internationally,” Norton said.

“Australians expect to be able to live their lives without being watched, monitored and tracked, but this is becoming increasingly difficult as more cities expand surveillance operations and place cameras in public spaces.”

In the initial trial, only three of the 30 cameras can use the facial recognition software simultaneously but the capability can move between cameras – which means passersby cannot tell whether facial recognition is being used in the cameras filming them or not.

The council was suspended in March 2018 and is now being run by three state government-appointed commissioners.

The deputy chair commissioner, Gaye McMath, said suggestions the community had not been adequately consulted were unfounded.

“The City of Perth has been open and transparent regarding the trial of facial recognition in East Perth,” she said. “Facial recognition will only be activated upon request from a lawful authority such as WA police, who need to provide the city with an image or series of images of a person of interest.

“There are many additional capabilities of the camera analytics [beyond facial recognition] including providing data around pedestrian numbers, vehicle types and counts, cyclist numbers which will assist planning and urban decision-making such as the placement of infrastructure or enhancing the development of transport solutions.”

The council confirmed that authorities would not be required to provide any kind of warrant when asking for the facial recognition capabilities to be switched on, only to provide an image or series of images of a person of interest.

The trial will run for 12 months and success will be measured by how many times a lawful authority requested the use of the facial recognition capability and how many times a person of interest (which may include missing persons or lost children, as well as criminal suspects) is located. If successful, the council may consider expanding it.

The council did not respond directly to questions about how the data would be stored or who would have access to it, saying only the data would be deleted every 30 days.

Brisbane has also turned super creepy, via the ABC:

Stadiums Queensland has admitted to trialling facial recognition software on sports fans and concertgoers, prompting questions by the state’s Privacy Commissioner about its quiet implementation.

The move means patrons are being monitored in real time, with their biometric data potentially being stored and shared with other agencies such as state and federal police.

While Stadiums Queensland (SQ) venues display privacy warnings about the use of CCTV, there is no signage suggesting facial recognition technology is in operation.

It makes Queensland the third state behind New South Wales and Victoria to trial the mass surveillance technology at its major stadiums.

Queensland Privacy Commissioner Phil Green said the public deserved to be aware their images and data were being captured and encouraged SQ and other similar agencies to conduct a privacy impact assessment.

…Last month, San Francisco became the first major US city to ban facial recognition technology, citing concerns with civil liberties.

Queensland University of Technology research fellow in technology and regulation, Dr Monique Mann, said the roll-out at public venues raised more questions than answers.

“I would be interested to know where the database of images is coming from,” she said.

“Where is the individual’s facial templates? What are they being matched against? How is this information being used, how is this information being stored? How is this information being shared?

“I think people should be informed that their facial images and biometric templates are being scanned and indeed if they’re being collected or what information is being harvested from crowds, and the purposes for which it’s being used.

“The Australian public are not very aware of the extent of information that’s being collected and used about them.

“This technology shouldn’t be implemented without proper public consultation and involvement of the community, and that’s not what we’re seeing.

“We’re seeing the state just implementing it without any input or feedback from the community.”

The Perth tech is Israeli not Chinese. Not sure about Brisbane.

Ban it all.

David Llewellyn-Smith

David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal.

He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.

Latest posts by David Llewellyn-Smith (see all)


  1. This measure is clearly only for the well deserved protection of good citizens of Straya who have long suffered the terror of Islamic fundamentalists, African gangs and other terrorists. The police force should also be granted immunity for shooting first and ask questions later.

    • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

      Multiculturalism can only exist in a state of high security and constant surveillance – why?

      Because different cultures have different values and more radical members of those cultures will actively seek to take steps to see that their values are projected forward into the future. The more that those values clash with other pre-existing cultural values, the greater the likelihood of conflict.

      Ban the root cause for the surveillance state and the root cause behind the decline in Trust levels within OUR society – BAN Multiculturalism.

      If you can’t handle the surveillance, stop supporting the conditions that make it necessary.

      • LOL any opportunity to get back to complaining about immigration and multiculturalism aye Stew, when this particular issue is about heading to an Orwellian state.
        You are truly a highly irritated redneck who can’t accept the fact straya was built, and continues to be built on immigration.
        I’m guessing you have a fuq off we’re full sticker on your maloo ute.
        Your heart rate and cholesterol levels would improve if you moved to a less vibrant country…. or block your ears and eyes and just be happy 🙂

      • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

        Teerol such a shame to hear your snivelling viewpoint again – have you just returned from the UK with your mail order Paki bride?

        PS: As I made clear, the surveillance state is a direct result of plummeting trust levels in Australia, which I have attributed to Multiculturalism and the fragmentation of common values.

        And again, all that makes Australia great was founded by the original colonisers of Australia, colonial Australians. It might surprise you, but there is more to Australia than getting some wetback to deliver you fresh Pho via Uber eats.

    • There is no escape. Don’t make me destroy you….. McPaddy, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the continent.

      • HnH, I am afraid that you are running out of time. I bet your public capitulation will crash the housing bubble and break the spell of the Moron Side. You see, if you just admit that you have gone on a shopping spree and bought 6 investment properties in the last month, those stubbornly cautious people who have been patiently waiting for a crash will finally realize that perhaps they should do the same. The resulting blow-off phase will shake out the last stubborn section of the market – then only a bottomless abyss will be left.

        Do what must be done, Lord HnH. Do not hesitate. Show no mercy. Only then will you be strong enough with the Moron Side to save Straya….

  2. “The trial will run for 12 months and success will be measured by how many times a lawful authority requested the use of the facial recognition capability and how many times a person of interest (which may include missing persons or lost children, as well as criminal suspects) is located. If successful, the council may consider expanding it.”

    I’ll call it now, the trial will be an overwhelming success.

    • darklydrawlMEMBER

      Yes, I was surprised that nobody asked what was meant by “Success”. Just what are the objectives with a program like this? Like you I would bet good money this will be quietly rolled out in future.

      • Interesting, isn’t it? People already accept what “success” means is immaterial – just like what specific charges were laid in the Moscow trials was immaterial.

      • darklydrawlMEMBER

        Edwin, I assume you are joking, but in all honesty I predict that soon it will be a movement / fashion / style / ‘coolness’ trend that is designed to defeat the AI facial recognition, or at least spoof it. It will start in the underground and become more mainstream as folks realise just what they are up against. Won’t be tomorrow, but it is not 10 years away either. Look for it in nightclub / criminal / music crowd first. Then it will be come trendy and a ‘look’ with lots of folks.

  3. Jumping jack flash

    simply the natural progression of technology, sold as enhancing safety.

    They could do the same for facial recognition and AI like they did for human cloning… but it is unlikely. There isn’t the same kind of moral outrage.

    Had they not put the kibosh on human cloning you can bet your grandmother that we’d have clones running round, or kept in comas for organ harvesting right about now.

  4. reusachtigeMEMBER

    If you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear from these society strengthening developments.

    • I know with you Reusa it’s tongue-in-cheek all the way. So, at the risk of being too serious…
      Galileo was persecuted by the power-that-was (The Holy Church of Rome).
      “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear” is bull$h*t.
      Even if you are trying to change the system to be better, you have a lot to fear.
      Sorry for the un-humorous and probably obvious comment

      • Apology accepted, Captain Arthur.

        Well, it is not as if you would be fine as long as you remained obedient to the state!! That would be too easy – we can’t have that.

        No, you will surely be taken to a concentration camp for an inexcusable crime like….. you were the first to stop clapping in your row when our beloved leader was given a fully deserved standing ovation. Never mind that someone in each row has to be the first to stop clapping – that you were the first is irrefutable evidence that you were planning treason. You should thank our leader from the bottom of your heart for his mercy that you are not yet facing a firing squad.

  5. GunnamattaMEMBER

    Ban it all.

    I think the time for banning it all is long past.  It is up all around the world in a host of little unassuming ways, and part of me thinks that whether we like it or not it is the way we have gone.  Everyone has their photo on their licence, most of us have a host of numbers, identifiers, how many of us are receiving calls from people asking our names dialling in from India or wherever these guys call from to tell us our computer needs repairing. Large numbers of us already load countless selfies on Facebook, or carry about zillions more on mobiles which are routinely tracked.

    I reckon we are already in the big data world and the data is only going to get bigger.  I would be inclined to get rid of it, but I don’t think we ever will, so the answer is how best to live with it.

    And it’s here that our ‘elites’ can lead the way.  That same data capacity can also inform us about so much more than it is currently doing. 

    Let us start with accessing political entitlements for politicians.  It should be only allowed by use of card, and it should all be done in real time, so that those small members of the Australian public who are having their faces scanned can see and make their own computations from real time updated databases.

    Then we could touch base with the property portfolios of our politicians and their families.  That too could be incorporated with the big data world we are having visited upon us.  Let us embrace the cleansing light of disclosure all round.

    Who is paying tax is another area where big data can really do us a lot of favours.  Let us have that national database of which individuals and entities are paying tax, which are connected with other individuals and entities, what incomes they are declaring, and what ‘concessions’ they are using.  Let us have all that in a nationally maintained database.

    From there lets have a measure of ‘National Public Funded Budget Exposure’ so that every last costed activity can all go into a national database – every kid, every school, every, road usage charge, every school result, every academic gift.

    And there is an upside, which particularly relates to facial recognition.  Let us really use that facial recognition capacity.  Once we have everyones face (and the measurements relating to it) in the system lets really use the data.  We already know that those people lying are inclined to react facially in ways which can be mathematically tracked, and it has already been established that facial recognition and lie detection are closely linked.  Let us have all of our politicians in that system and let us having a real time call on when our elites (and particularly individuals speaking on TV about issues) are telling lies to us……..with a ‘bullshit gauge’ to accompany every public utterance of every last politician, corporate identity, public figure, academic – and let real data provide an instant data readout on the said individual in real time……

    … that the moment some talking head goes into lecture mode about tax cuts or gifts to corporates enabled by serving politicians, then we, the public, can access all relevant data about a p[erson doing the talking, and have an informative call on whether they are spouting bull for the punterariat.

    Let us embed data in peoples lives and let us use it as a force for profound good. And let us shove that data mindset into our elites and their sphincters.

    • darklydrawlMEMBER

      Ironically, in the home city of some of the very tech giants that create this software – it has been banned. A bit like O’l Stevie Jobs not letting his kids use an iPad.

  6. Earlier around Perth a network of private mobile phone receivers that triangulate the position of your mobile phone and link that phone to a particular person (via phone number) and thus tracks your every movement within the range of the receivers. Your mobile phones when on are constantly searching for towers and give out meta data to anyone or organisation that wishes to listen into that signal request. Systems cover parliament house the city Victoria Quay etc. Link the two together and hey presto the facial recognition links to your mobile phone signal and everyone with a mobile phone can be tracked and the operators know who you are and can track your movements. Isn’t that so cool I wonder how long it is until we here in OZ have a social credit score linked and managed by Home Affairs? No more secret affairs or meeting with activists, even if you cover your face you can be tracked. That is so cool what could possibly go wrong (for the MB trolls I’m being sarc’, the systems however are real and installed). So when Govie says 1.273m people visited a particular place that is not a number plucked from their clackers is based on actual collected data!

    • DominicMEMBER

      Have you noticed how many recent crimes have been solved by the miscreant’s mobile giving them away?

      In the UK recently a man was convicted of murdering his wife on the basis of the fact that both had these ‘health’ apps uploaded and it recorded how many steps each did daily. The husband (who claimed he had popped out to get a pizza) was in the immediate proximity of his wife when her ‘steps’ (activity) ceased. All recorded on their mobiles …

  7. It’s simple really we should all dress as pirates.. Arrrgh! With me eye patch, large skull & crossbones hat and parrot everyone thinks I’m Pauline Hanson.

  8. Crikey, what on earth keeps inspiring people to just keep pursuing and installing this tech?

    Terrorism is bad, yes – but stop overblowing its impact and stop massively over-taking our freedoms for such little gain – it’s the law-abiding locals who lose out the most out of this stuff in the way of privacy and freedom.

    Just stop it.