Scaffidi raises concerns over face recognition

PERTH lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi has weighed into the debate about surveillance cameras with facial recognition technology being installed throughout the city.

Ms Scaffidi, who is currently suspended with the rest of the council, recently woke to find a CCTV camera had been installed directly in front of her Claisebrook Cove home and she’s not happy about its “24/7” coverage.

A year-long trial starts this month with 30 cameras installed around Optus Stadium and East Perth, but Ms Scaffidi said there was no notification for residents.

It’s rare for her to comment on political issues, but she Tweeted there were some “very concerning” aspects to the plan.

She said there was “not one letterdrop about it advising relevant info or giving a number to call with [questions]. One camera is directly [in] front of my house (24/7)”.

At any time three cameras can be activated to identify faces and cross-check them against images provided to the city by a “lawful authority” like Australian Federal Police.

Privacy advocates and legal experts say they are concerned about the trial, which is being match-funded with $1.3 million from the federal government’s “Smart Cities” program.

Shrouded in mystery

THE surveillance program is shrouded in mystery as the city has released little official information on how it will operate.

In one statement to the ABC, one of the city’s acting directors Daniel High was quoted as saying people had been made aware of the rollout via “signs throughout the precinct, highlighting that people are in a CCTV area, and through the publicity et cetera that the trial has generated, people will be aware that we have that capacity”.

The Voice contacted the city to ask what pre-trial consultation had been undertaken and commissioner Gaye McMath said they had “consulted with the community regarding the trial of facial recognition in East Perth”.

She said there were media releases and a press conference in December last year, as well as media interviews.

But the city’s official missives mention nothing of facial recognition technology.

A press release in December last year calls it a “Smart Precinct trial” that “will use CCTV-based sensors and analytics to measure vehicle and pedestrian activity around the new Matagarup Bridge and Optus Stadium”. Roughly a third of the “Smart City” press release is devoted to talking about a new irrigation system that’ll automatically take into account weather forecasts and soil moisture readings to not over-water on wet days.

After the media went public with the facial recognition component, Ms McMath was quoted in a May 13 federal government press release stating the facial recognition would only be used on request from a “lawful authority”, and no database would be kept or linked to by the city.

Stories by DAVID BELL

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