LETTERS 6.7.19

Face up to the faceless few
THE article about facial recognition software (“Scaffidi raises concerns over face recognition,” Voice, June 22, 2019) had me wondering about what is in store for us and how our privacy is being eroded.
The people who run these privacy-eroding technologies are mere humans and can make errors of practice and judgement.
So problems will occur from time to time but how do we get to know what has happened and who was on the receiving end?
Whistle blowing is also in the news.
Governments and brands have a high opinion of themselves but don’t like anyone spilling the beans when something goes wrong.
The ideas of continuous improvement, best practice and privacy are somewhat debatable in such instances, when the public has a right to know.
I wonder if a public servant leaked (ie a whistleblower) a future instance of potential illegal governmental data gathering through facial recognition software recently installed in Perth, whether or not that person would be prosecuted.
Or protected?
Is it illegal data gathering or legitimate tracking?
The definitions are vague. Heck, we haven’t even seen the definitions.
This new facial recognition software that can track my whereabouts and activity is supposed to be turned off and only used when police ask for it.
But does anyone seriously believe that expensive IT software will be left to sit and gather dust?
And what police are we talking about. State police, federal police?
Just exactly who can ask for the switch to be turned on? A constable, a commissioner, City of Perth security … just who exactly?

What purpose?
And for what purpose?
Tracking a supposed terrorist?
Following an individual that has made an insurance claim? Maybe it could be a claim against the state government insurance commission that they consider to be fraudulent but unproven.
Even watching where the original whistleblower goes and what he does?
Tracking the journalist that the whistleblower has talked with?
Big Brother, come on down.
It’s not transparent enough for me and I don’t like it one bit.
The whole premise is supposedly to “make our streets and community safer”.
However the cost to us is a never-ending eroding of our privacy and we must be absolutely sure that this is what we want.
We should not allow some form of big government to install systems of tracking into a population that has the right to move about freely and to do so without such never-ending and ill-defined scrutiny.
And now I hear there is an adjustment to a state law whereby authorities can immediately arrest and hold for 14 days without charge, any person they ‘think’ might be on the verge of committing a “terrorist” act.
That is ill-defined as well.
All of it is way, way too vague for me to say it’s a good thing for the community.
There are lots of additions to the erosion of our freedoms that might eventually add up to a “whole” that right now is just crazy to contemplate for the future of a free democracy.
Colin Scott
Deague Ct, North Perth

The Ed says: We absolutely agree, Colin. There should have been a proper public discussion about this emerging technology and whether as a community we are prepared to accept or even embrace it. It was a debate that should have been led by the state (or indeed the federal) government because it obviously impacts anyone who visits the Perth CBD, not just ratepayers. Come on City of Perth, better transparency, please.

Enough’s enough
GIVEN our exciting yet deeply distrustful times, inquiries seem likely to become even fashionable in governance circles.
They stem grievances – for a while.
Such a trend was boosted, of course, by the royal commission into the big four banks; and with growing impatience similar to that regarding many other issues, we await the fate of some fat executives.
In WA our capital city’s councillors are suspended while a lawyer called Tony Power heads an inquiry into the city’s administration.
Apparently, Mr Power wields the clout to ignore the local elections come October – and continue his probe into the new year.
Meanwhile, our capital city is being run by a state-appointed trio of commissioners. These are chaired by one Eric Lumsden.
His words, when appointed in March 2018, might well come to haunt him. These reported elsewhere (The West Australian): “Our primary objective at the moment is to restore confidence in the council and put it on the right direction for the future…”
The handsomely-paid trio now appears to be walking backward to Christmas, and if not across the Irish Sea then behind closed doors.
When will frustrated Perth ratepayers become angry enough to take some initiatives of their own?
For example, launch peaceful street demonstrations loud enough to bring out of his temple the Labor premier Mark McGowan.
Ratepayers’ frustration prompted by witch-hunting and by wanton destruction of our global image developed over a decade.
An image built painstakingly and with love of her home city, by our first woman, and best-ever lord mayor, the fiercely independent and courageous Lisa Scaffidi.
What tragic irony. When Ms Scaffidi so thoroughly deserves a record-breaking fourth term as our chain bearer and civic leader.
In the event of state-appointed commissioners proving to be a disaster, what can a state do next?
But of course: be fashionable. Set up another inquiry.
PS: All hail former City of Perth councillor Lyndon Rodgers
Winsley Hurst
St Georges Tce, Perth

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