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Speech: Use of Facial Recognition Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (21:27): It has been sometime since I introduced this bill, and I thank those members who have made a contribution to the debate tonight. I note that this is unfinished business from those previous debates with regard to the bills the Hon. Connie Bonaros reflected upon. As I mentioned during my second reading speech, this issue does go all the way back to that deal that ran between Labor and the government, made behind closed doors, to ram through the so-called gambling reform legislation.

As part of that deal Labor required that there be provisions that electric gaming machines, EGMs, were fitted with facial recognition systems ostensibly for the purposes of harm minimisation. Certainly, that was how it was portrayed to the public. It was only under scrutiny from the Greens and the crossbenchers that it was revealed that indeed this technology is not values neutral. It can be used to groom gamblers as well as to ensure harm minimisation.

At the time I sought to amend that piece of legislation, but, as was the wont of the backroom deal, no amendments were entertained, no matter how sensible. Of course, the requirements and the exposure of the foolishness of the belief that this was a value free technology meant that the concerns raised by the Greens—that this technology not be used to groom gamblers—was put into the regulations.

So this is unfinished business because while the requirement to limit the use of facial recognition technology for the purposes of harm minimisation, to identify problem gamblers who should not be allowed inside a venue is welcome, such a requirement is only temporary while it remains only in regulations. As I raised at the time, when we originally had this debate, the gambling industry of course will want facial recognition technology not just for harm minimisation but, indeed, to groom gamblers.

To refresh members' memories on just what this technology looks like, here are a few examples: let us look at technology offered by ntech lab. Their facial recognition system is called FindFace. FindFace is marketed to casinos as follows, 'Recognise VIP guests as soon as they enter the casino, and provide the highest level of service.' Below this, they state that with FindFace casinos can see 'up to two times the potential increase of the average bill using personalised offers.' It goes on to spruik the benefits of this VIP guest identification with FindFace stating:

Providing high quality services to VIP guests is a guarantee of their loyalty. Get to know important guests and exceed their expectations. Knowing the history of guest visits, win their heart personalising your services. Make them come more frequently and increase the average spend.

Other facial recognition technology spruikers, such as Konami Gaming Vice-President Greg Colella, told a reporter that facial recognition technology for casinos and gambling venues could:

…create an anonymous ID for an individual player and then track how often that person visits the property, how much she or he usually spends, and which in-house restaurant the individual prefers. Data could be sent to hosts, who could offer customised incentives.

This is why we must be ensuring in our legislation—not in the regulations but in the act—that this technology, which is not values-free, is used to protect from harm, not to groom gambling and create that harm.

Indeed, the Treasurer has said basically, 'Trust us, we're the government,' even though two years ago we were told, 'Trust us, we're the government and the opposition and we're going to have an online gambling inquiry,' a joint house committee that has now languished for those two years because apparently the idea of having myself and the Hon. Connie Bonaros on such a committee seems too frightening to even call the first meeting.

I do not trust you just because you are the government; I certainly do not trust this government on pokies reform. I do not believe that we can let this harmful technology sit in regulations with those scant protections when ostensibly the Attorney, in response to this, put these regulations in assuring the Greens that our concerns had been taken on board. I do not understand why they would be seen now as superfluous when for the Greens, for the crossbenches and for those who care about minimising harm in the gambling industry, these are essential protections that belong in the act.

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