In a rare move, the bi-partisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has recommended the Identity-matching Services Bill 2019 be withdrawn and re-drafted.
The Committee expressed strong concern regarding the Bill, noting privacy and other human rights concerns and saying that protections, including oversight mechanisms, need to be included in any redrafted version.
The Bill proposed a new legal framework that could enable mass surveillance using facial recognition technology.
Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow welcomed the Committee’s report as the Commission has warned in two submissions that the Bill should not proceed in its current form.
“I’m pleased that the Committee has unanimously recommended the Government redraft the Bill,” said Commissioner Santow.
“The Bill was drafted too broadly, with inadequate safeguards, and this carries a high risk of violating the human rights of ordinary Australians. So, we’re relieved the Committee has strongly recommended the Bill not proceed in its current form.”
The Commission’s submissions also urged that the Bill include stronger democratic oversight. The Bill gave too much discretionary power to the executive branch of government and created potential opportunities for identity theft.
“The proposed ‘face identification service’ in the Bill would caused innocent people to appear as potential suspects in criminal investigations,” said Commissioner Santow.
“The Bill risked serious and widespread unintended consequences.”
Commissioner Santow is leading a major Australian Human Rights Commission project examining the human rights implications of technology. More information about the Human Rights and Technology project is available here.