Australia proposed using facial recognition technology for online gambling and pornography age verification

Posted on Nov 4, 2019 by Caleb Chen
Australia facial recognition proposal

The Australian government’s Department of Home Affairs has proposed using facial recognition for online age verification for pornography and gambling websites visited by Australians as an update to Australia’s National Identity Security Strategy. The full not-so-detailed plan is titled: “Submission to the Inquiry into Age Verification for Online Wagering and Online Pornography.” In it, the Department of Home Affairs highlights their new Face Verification Service and how it could be used for age verification. Note: no words on how online pornography and gambling users would submit their face image for comparison versus their ID in the Face Verification Service:

“[…] Home Affairs is developing a Face Verification Service which matches a person’s photo against images used on one of their evidence of identity documents to help verify their identity. The Face Verification Service complements the Document Verification Service by preventing the use of stolen as well as fake identity information. This could assist in age verification, for example by preventing a minor from using their parent’s driver licence to circumvent age verification controls.”

While this “protect the children” argument may seem compelling on the surface, Australia’s real intention here is to expand the use of facial recognition technology and build a database of Australian internet users’ porn and gambling habits.

Australia seeks to expand their use of facial recognition surveillance technology under the guise of protecting the children from pornography and gambling

The Australian government seems to have the opinion that facial recognition technology should be absolutely everywhere – despite the fact that facial recognition technology still does show biases and provide false results. In their proposal, the Department of Home Affairs even admits both their long term goal to make sure that facial recognition technology is absolutely everywhere and how far off the normal use case of facial recognition technology their plan really is:

“Whilst they are primarily designed to prevent identity crime, Home Affairs would support the increased use of the Document and Face Verification Services across the Australian economy to strengthen age verification processes.”

Facial recognition technology is on the rise around the world

Australia already has some facial recognition technology that is used by law enforcement; It’s worth noting that this plan by the Department of Home Affairs is absolutely meant to expand Australia’s facial recognition technology programs beyond the oversight of courts. Unlike the United States which already has it, Australia’s Parliament is currently planning to vote on a database of millions of faces gathered from licenses and passports around the country. Now, it seems that Home Affairs would like to update that database with a timestamp of every instant that you view pornography or gambling online. Of course, the database would also include what type of pornography or gambling site this heinous age verification process happened on. The insistence on an age verification method that can be tied back to individuals’ identities, and all the privacy concerns that come with it, is not unique to Australia.

For years, the United Kingdom has considered and even announced that it was launching a similar online age verification scheme that would have required buying “porn passes” from corner stores while also showing state issued identification for verification. Australia’s plan is admittedly a little more high tech – which carries with it the fear that Australia’s sometimes technology and logic incompetent politicians will wave in this new expansion of facial recognition surveillance without batting an eye.