'Perth City council is pressing ahead with a trial of facial recognition technology to be installed in cameras across East Perth, despite concerns from privacy experts and local residents.
The network of 30 cameras is set to go live within weeks, amid complaints there has been no proper local consultation since the plans were revealed last year.
The cameras are equipped with software that uses deep-learning AI to recognise faces, count passing people and vehicles and track movement. The council said the system was going through final tests, and was expected to be activated within a few weeks.
The secretary of the East Perth Community Safety Group, Lyn Schwan, said she was not aware of any community consultation about the trial.
“The facial recognition aspect of the new camera network was news to me,” she said. “I feel that the community should have been better informed. Whether residents want to take it further or not is up to them, but we should have been told.”
The chairman of Digital Rights Watch, Tim Norton, questioned whether such systems were an effective tool to tackle crime.
“There is no empirical evidence that supports the assertion that blanket surveillance is effective at preventing serious crime and terrorism either domestically or internationally,” Norton said.
“Australians expect to be able to live their lives without being watched, monitored and tracked, but this is becoming increasingly difficult as more cities expand surveillance operations and place cameras in public spaces.”
In the initial trial, only three of the 30 cameras can use the facial recognition software simultaneously but the capability can move between cameras – which means passersby cannot tell whether facial recognition is being used in the cameras filming them or not.
The council was suspended in March 2018 and is now being run by three state government-appointed commissioners.'
Read more: Perth council facial recognition trial (it's not a 'trial') greeted with concern and scepticism
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