Question: Facial Recognition Technology

In Parliament, Questions

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:06): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Attorney-General on facial recognition technology.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I start by noting the City Safe CCTV network is a $3 million network that is owned by the Adelaide City Council and SAPOL, and also that in South Australia the state public sector is required to comply with the South Australian Information Privacy Principles (IPPs). However, the IPPs do not extend to biometric information, so there is no other legal framework that applies to any surveillance activities carried out by agencies, authorities and organisations that fall outside the scope of the Privacy Act and APPs in South Australia.

I also note, and I imagine the Attorney would be well aware, that this week it has been uncovered by Choice that facial recognition technology is increasingly being used by private sector and consumer bodies such as Kmart and Bunnings. Indeed, in our own Adelaide CBD these cameras have been installed which now have the capacity for quite extensive facial recognition technology. Yet it appears this mass surveillance and capturing of our biometric data is operating without the adequate safeguards or standards.

There are known issues with facial recognition technologies’ ability to accurately identify people, and I note particularly women and people of colour are incorrectly identified. I look to the words of Edward Santow, who is a former Human Rights Commissioner, on this: he has given an example of the London Met in 2019 incorrectly identifying 96 per cent of people scanned as suspects. I imagine the minister would be very well aware that with the gambling facial recognition technology it has been quite well identified that it misidentified Maori people in New Zealand and, more locally I have been informed by the Hotels Association here in South Australia, Indigenous people in our state.

My questions to the minister are: given the Adelaide City Council, when it approved this technology, moved a motion that said that camera facial recognition technology would not be used unless the Parliament of South Australia adopted legislation to provide safeguards against all of the issues that I have just raised, who is dealing with this legislation? Has there been correspondence between SAPOL, the Adelaide City Council and the Malinauskas government with regard to protecting and ensuring the effectiveness of protocols around the use of facial recognition technology?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:09): I thank the honourable member for her question. It is a good question. As technology changes and improves, how that technology is used and applied necessarily needs to be considered by legislators in terms of a whole lot of areas, not the least of which is people’s privacy. As there is more and more information created, more ways to store that information, and more ways to disseminate that information, the rights of people in terms of what sort of information (including things like biometric data) is being recorded and how it’s used becomes challenging in ways that haven’t been considered prior to that technology.

I am not aware of any correspondence between SAPOL and the city council, but I certainly will take that on notice and I suspect will have to liaise with my colleague the member for Cheltenham and the Minister for Police in another place. I appreciate the question. It is certainly something I think as a government we need to be alert to, and as legislators we need to have a responsibility to make sure that as technology changes we are keeping up with what we need to do in legislation. I thank the honourable member for raising it. I will talk to my ministerial colleague but also my department about these issues and bring back a reply.