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Call for Australian porn viewers to be face scanned

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Australia’s powerful domestic security agency has suggested using face scans to confirm people’s age before they watch online pornography.

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The Department of Home Affairs has also suggested using the technology to restrict access to gambling sites.

The department has suggested checking ages by matching a person’s photo with a document already logged with Home Affairs, such as a driver’s license.

“This could assist in age verification, for example by preventing a minor from using their parent’s driver licence to circumvent age verification controls,” it wrote to a parliamentary committee investigating the idea.

The United Kingdom this month abandoned plans to introduce a nationwide age verification system for online pornography, after years of technical troubles and concerns from privacy campaigners.

Closer to home, the Home Affairs proposal would piggyback off a separate proposed facial recognition scheme being pursued by the federal government.

The government wants agencies, banks and phone companies to be able to use the technology.

However, a bipartisan committee recently shot down the proposal over fears it could lead to mass surveillance, telling the government to redraft its plans.

Senator Paul Scarr said the intelligence and security committee, made up of MPs and senators from both sides of the political divide, did its homework and came back with some measured recommendations.

“The government will be looking at the recommendations of the committee and working with the committee to progress the legislation,” the Queensland senator told ABC television on Saturday.

“There was no intention through this legislation to introduce mass surveillance,” he said, adding that something needs to be done to prevent identity theft, which affects one in 20 Australians each year.

Labor frontbencher Andrew Giles said the legislation would allow the Department of Home Affairs to obtain facial images from state driver’s licence databases.

Mr Giles said this is “more overreach” from Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

“The onus should be on the minister and the government to clearly articulate what they’re doing and why,” Giles told ABC television.

He said the parliament is always trying to strike the balance between ensuring Australians are kept safe while protecting privacy and civil liberties.

“It appears no such consideration took place by the government before introducing this bill,” he said.

Australia is not the only country wary of facial recognition technology, with a new survey in the UK finding almost two in three Britons disagree with police using such technology.

The technology uses surveillance cameras equipped with facial recognition software to scan passers-by in public spaces, using artificial intelligence to compare them to watch-lists of people being sought by police.

The poll by YouGov and commissioned by Britain’s Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, surveyed 2000 British adults.

-AAP

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