Australians looking to play at online casinos may need to give up a bit of their anonymity in the future. According to various reports, the Australian government is looking to employ facial recognition technology to block minors from accessing online gambling and porn.
This move could set a very dangerous precedent for the country. It would require that anyone wishing to gamble online have their faces scanned before accessing online casino websites.
Government Looking to Block Online Gambling Through Facial Recognition
Various reports have confirmed that the Department of Home Affairs has submitted recommendations regarding the use of facial identification to restrict access to online porn and online gambling to minors. According to a submission sent to Parliament, the Face Verification System under development by the DHA to combat crime and identity theft can be used for age verification purposes.
This system would require users wishing to play at an online casino to submit to a facial scan as part of their verification. Online casinos in Australia often require that players submit identification documents, typically within 14 days. Other casinos require these documents before allowing a player to cash out.
However, few online porn sites have these requirements. Andrew Wallace, the chair of the Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs spoke on the bill. He told reporters that “This is concerning, as research shows that accessing pornography negatively influences young peoples’ attitudes to sex, sexuality, and relationships.”
Facial Recognition Already a Controversial Topic
Australia’s national facial recognition system is already controversial. Aussie citizen’s photos from driver licenses and passports are already part of the national biometric database. The purpose of the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability is to identify identity thieves and other criminals.
However, there are already examples of the database overreaching its intended goal. In September, Victorian residents were alarmed to discover that the driver’s license of every resident was not available on the database. The DHA claims that the data will only be available to select government-based organizations. However, the invasion of privacy has already happened.
Eros Association General Manager Rachel Payne voiced her concerns over citizen privacy. As she stated, “What information could be captured by hacking someone’s records? The Department of Home Affairs would argue there’s no possibility. But our census has been hacked before, so who knows what could happen.”
A database such as that from the DHA can be the ultimate score for identity thieves. Hackers would not only have sensitive personal information but a way to physically identify people.
Face Verification System Not Yet Operational
This may be a situation where the DHA is jumping the gun on the application of their technology. The Face Verification System being developed is not yet fully operational. This is because the Identity-matching Services Bill of 2019 has yet to be passed by Parliament.
Presently, the bill in the present form is dead. It was recently rejected by the security and security committee. The committee threw out the bill as it lacks sufficient protections to citizens and the data in the database.
Committee chairman Andrew Hastie told Parliament that oversight mechanisms and concrete safeguards need to be put into the bill. He told Parliament, “Some participants raised with the committee a need to ensure appropriate governance, accountability, and protection of the individual’s right to privacy.”
According to Hastie, “The committee acknowledges these concerns. We believe that while the bill’s explanatory memorandum sets out governance arrangements such as existing and potential agreements and access policy, they are not adequately set out in the current bill.”
The committee recommends a new draft for the bill. This means that it will likely be sometime in 2020 before Parliament reconsiders the bill.