Facial recognition quietly switched on at Queensland stadiums, sparking privacy concerns
Stadiums Queensland has admitted to trialling facial recognition software on sports fans and concertgoers, prompting questions by the state’s Privacy Commissioner about its quiet implementation.
- Stadium Queensland venue signage mentions CCTV but nothing about facial recognition technology
- Queensland’s Privacy Commissioner says the public deserves to know and SQ should conduct a privacy impact assessment
- SQ has confirmed a trial of the technology is underway and data is being shared with police
The move means patrons are being monitored in real time, with their biometric data potentially being stored and shared with other agencies such as state and federal police.
While Stadiums Queensland (SQ) venues display privacy warnings about the use of CCTV, there is no signage suggesting facial recognition technology is in operation.
It makes Queensland the third state behind New South Wales and Victoria to trial the mass surveillance technology at its major stadiums.
Queensland Privacy Commissioner Phil Green said the public deserved to be aware their images and data were being captured and encouraged SQ and other similar agencies to conduct a privacy impact assessment.
“It’s certainly something for any large-scale technology implementation like that, that we recommend,” he said.
“It’s simply good practice to identify risks of conducting this sort of surveillance and using facial recognition — those risks are being identified worldwide at the moment.
Stadiums Queensland venues:
- The Gabba
- Suncorp Stadium
- Metricon Stadium
- Cbus Stadium
- 1300SMILES Stadium
- Queensland Tennis Centre
- Brisbane Entertainment Centre
- Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre
“It’s been demonstrated that bias can creep in, depending on what databases you’re using and who’s in the database, and the algorithms themselves.”
Mr Green said when facial recognition is used by matching a particular image in a database to someone in a crowd — otherwise known as the “one to many” approach — bias could evolve in the use of the technology.
“The quality of the images is one of the big variables, particularly in a big crowd,” he said.
“The technology is getting better, but it’s been demonstrated that bias can creep in depending on what databases you’re using and who’s in the database, and then also the algorithms themselves.
“It’s been highlighted in the US and in the UK where certain populations are represented in databases more broadly — so African Americans.
“I would imagine in Australia there’s a potential for ethnic minorities to be over-represented in the justice system, to be singled out in the crowds more readily just because there are more images [in the database].”
‘Just identifying patterns and anomalies’
SQ oversees the management of nine of the state’s biggest venues, including Lang Park, The Gabba and the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Last year, Sports Minister Mick de Brenni said the technology was being considered as part of an $8.3 million security upgrade across the suite of venues.
An SQ spokeswoman confirmed the trial was underway and that data was being shared with police.
“At this time, such software is only being used to identify patterns and anomalies in crowd behaviour [such as abandoned bags or long queues],” she said.
“As indicated in the terms of entry, ticketholders agree to being filmed by CCTV for the purpose of venue security and public safety upon entry to Stadiums Queensland venues.”
There was no mention of the rollout in the SQ annual report and a spokesman would not confirm the venues where it was being trialled for security reasons.
ABC News revealed last month that Queensland police used the technology for general policing purposes after a clunky rollout during the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
‘Australian public not very aware’: researcher
Last month, San Francisco became the first major US city to ban facial recognition technology, citing concerns with civil liberties.
Queensland University of Technology research fellow in technology and regulation, Dr Monique Mann, said the roll-out at public venues raised more questions than answers.
“I would be interested to know where the database of images is coming from,” she said.
“Where is the individual’s facial templates? What are they being matched against? How is this information being used, how is this information being stored? How is this information being shared?
“I think people should be informed that their facial images and biometric templates are being scanned and indeed if they’re being collected or what information is being harvested from crowds, and the purposes for which it’s being used.
“The Australian public are not very aware of the extent of information that’s being collected and used about them.
“This technology shouldn’t be implemented without proper public consultation and involvement of the community, and that’s not what we’re seeing.
“We’re seeing the state just implementing it without any input or feedback from the community.”