Australians unconcerned about face recognition plans
11 October 2017 18:00 GMT

A survey of Australians has found they are unconcerned about government plans to link driver licences to a face recognition system.

In a survey by research company Roy Morgan, only 32.5 percent of the 1,486 people surveyed via text message were concerned about mass facial recognition technology, leaving a majority (67.5 percent) unperturbed by the measure.

Queensland and South Australia lead as the states most ‘unconcerned’ about mass facial recognition technology (75.5%), followed by Tasmania (68.5%), Western Australia (66.5%), New South Wales (66%) and Victorians (62%).

Prime Minister Turnbull said last week that he supported of the creation of a national facial recognition database using driving licence images, to tackle terror and crime.

For the majority of individuals who did not express their concern over the matter, their primary reasoning focused on having ‘nothing to hide’, and the fact it would assist Australian authorities with counter-terrorism measures.

The survey also alluded to the fact that the notion of ‘privacy’ has changed in recent years, and that mass facial recognition technology was not overly invasive in light of this.

For those individuals who expressed concern, their primary reasoning surrounded an erosion of privacy and civil liberties. Some individuals expressed a lack of trust in the government, along with the fact racial profiling may be conducted.

For Tim Singleton Norton, chair of Digital Rights Watch, these results don't come as a surprise. 

"I think there's a very low public understanding of what the issues are and the ramifications are," he said. 

"The other thing is it's indicative of how the government's been selling it. The narrative and rhetoric we hear is all about protecting citizenry, about national security, about the viable need for invasions of privacy for a greater good … that's a narrative people want to hear, because it's comforting."

Most of the Australians who say they're not worried about a facial recognition database said they had nothing to hide. They placed a higher priority over security than privacy, and it follows the government's line on the issue that the technology is required for national security.