The HRLC made its comments to Parliament’s intelligence and security committee in Canberra following the Department of Home Affairs reintroduction of the proposed law in July this year after identical laws lapsed when parliament was dissolved for the May 2019 election.
According to the HRLC the proposed law would also create a massive “dragnet” database of photos of millions of ordinary Australians, including children, from passports, state and territory drivers’ licences – with a wide range of government agencies, and even local councils and private companies, allowed access for identity matching purposes.
Emily Howie, a legal director of the Human Rights Law Centre, said the scheme would fail to properly regulate facial recognition technology, placing extraordinary power in the hands of government departments without the necessary transparency or human rights safeguards.
“The laws are a recipe for disaster, they put at risk everyone’s privacy and contain no meaningful safeguards. This law is sloppy, it’s dangerous, and it has no place in a democracy,” said Howie.
The HRLC says the proposed law would allow local councils, transport authorities and even private companies, to access and search for matches across a database comprised of Australians’ personal information, including a biometric profile of their face – and could give access for minor reasons, including investigating minor offences such as a parking infringement.
“Frankly, these proposed laws are something you’d expect in an authoritarian state, they do not belong in a liberal democracy. Those attending a public meeting, a protest or a vigil should not have to reveal their identities to exercise their democratic right to engage with others and gather peacefully. Parliament must draw a line in the sand and reject this proposal,” said Howie.
“A good government wouldn’t just hand over the personal details of its citizens willy-nilly to private corporations or open it up to misuse. A good government would take sensible steps to prevent unfair intrusions into people’s private lives. The Morrison Government needs to go back to the drawing board on this one.”