The facial recognition software known as The Capability, previously matched CCTV footage to passport photos, but the addition of drivers’ licence headshots will expand the catalogue significantly.

By Joe McDonough


Posted on October 5, 2017

State Premiers have today agreed to hand over photos of every licensed driver to authorities to support an expanded automated facial recognition system.

The facial recognition software known as The Capability, previously matched CCTV footage to passport photos, but the addition of drivers’ licence headshots will expand the catalogue significantly. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) also consented to speeding up the identification process from a week to real-time.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk hopes the new measure is in place in time for next year’s Commonwealth Games. “I support whatever measures are needed – surveillance, added security – and the prime minister is co-operating with us in relation to those matters,” she said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said leaders had no higher responsibility than to keep people safe.

“We need to be sure that we give our police, intelligence and security agencies the tools they need to keep us safe,” he said. “I think we’re all agreed that there is no place for set and forget in national security.”

I think we’re all agreed that there is no place for set and forget in national security.

The ABC reports the ACT has also agreed but Attorney General Gordon Ramsay has reiterated the privacy concerns the Territory has had since The Capability was first introduced in 2015. He has asked for assurances that data will only be used outside of counter-terrorism when The Capability returns a perfect match.

“One of the things that we would always be looking to is the access and the way that information can be used, they will be part of the ongoing negotiations,” Mr Ramsay said.

Surveillance expert Professor Katina Michael, warns the ABC that facial recognition technology earmarked for counter-terrorism could also be used to harm us.

“Before we know it’ll be used for breath tests and speeding, it will be used to open a bank account… licences are our primary ID — so does that mean everywhere we’ve been using them for identity, all the clubs and pubs, will have access to it?” She questioned.

“It’s not going to take long for these systems to be hacked, no matter what security you have in place and once it’s hacked, that’s it — everyone’s facial images will end up on some third-party selling list and possibly on the internet for accessibility.

“Yeah, people put photos on Facebook, but not in that kind of systematic, calculated way.”