Left your passport at home? No need to worry because these could soon be a thing of the past. A pilot program is currently being tested in Australia to introduce facial recognition passports.
Powered by facial recognition, citizens are applying for tax files using their face instead of the more traditional way of using paper. No more arduous paperwork! Now by simply taking a selfie, MyGovID matches it to your passport photo already on file. The process takes a matter of minutes instead of months.
If successful. the government plans to eventually connect the system to all government services and Australians will apply for a new passport this way, amongst other things.
Australia already leads the way in smart border control technology. In 2007, the border agency introduced SmartGates where the technology scans your passport and then your face. to verifiy your identity.
During peak hours, a single SmartGate can handle as many as 150 passengers an hour – that’s one person being processed through immigration every 24 seconds.
During summer 2017, the country tested the world’s first “contactless” immigration technology. The passport-free facial recognition system confirms a traveller’s identity by matching his or her’s face against stored data.
Biometrics aren’t just being used at border control . Sydney Airport has announced it’s teaming up with Qantas – Australia’s largest airline – to use facial recognition to simplify the departure process.
It is hoped that in the near future there will be no need for a physical passport whatsoever. Travellers won’t even know they are being processed. True science fiction!
By 2020, MyGovID will be trialled across multiple areas of Australian government services, mostly business and tax applications.
However, the topic of facial recognition has been divisive. Many Australians concerned about the potential for a breach of privacy…
Is Facial Recognition Technology A Violation of Privacy?
“Facial recognition-powered government surveillance is an extraordinary invasion of the privacy of all citizens—and a slippery slope to losing control of our identities altogether.” Brian Brackeen, founder and the chief executive officer of the facial recognition software developer Kairos.
While increased security among other things is an obvious benefit, the technology also evokes fears of a “Big Brother” surveillance state. Facial recognition technology is not perfect either. False positives are still a big issue, particularly when identifying people of colour.
In the US, Amazon is selling its facial recognition technology “Rekognition” to police across the US. The partnering of massive tech companies with law enforcement efforts often strikes a nerve, raising concerns about privacy and software flaws.
Another concern with Rekognition is that it comes from Amazon, the largest online retailer in the world. Amazon have stated that they have no access to the data. They simply supply the technology for law enforcement.
Our quality of life would be much worse today if we outlawed new technology because some people could choose to abuse the technology. Imagine if customers couldn’t buy a computer because it was possible to use that computer for illegal purposes?”Amazon Web Services Spokeswoman
China has already adopted this technology on an incomparable scale with millions of CCTV cameras installed throughout the country.
The cameras are used to fine traffic violators and jaywalkers, but there are some serious humanitarian concerns. Activists believe the technology is being used to cement rule over the Uighurs, an ethnic minority.
One million of the minority are reportedly being held in re-education centres there with their movements monitored using facial recognition in an area claimed to be on lockdown.
So, the questions need to be asked: Is Australia taking steps towards government surveillance powered by facial recognition? Are concerns over privacy valid? Should the West look to China as a benchmark or a warning?