Facial surveillance not a concern for 2 in 3 Australians: Morgan poll

The polling company says a vast majority of respondents believe they have 'nothing to hide'.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

An SMS survey conducted by polling company Roy Morgan over the last weekend has found that most respondents were not concerned by Australia's upcoming facial recognition system, with 67.5 percent stating they were unconcerned.

Roy Morgan asked the question -- "Under anti-terror measures, state governments will provide driver licence photos for mass facial recognition technology. Does this concern you?" -- and found that the younger each cohort was, the more concerned they were, but no one age bracket had a majority of respondents who were more concerned than not.

(Image: Roy Morgan)

Broken down by state, the most concerned were Victoria and NSW, with 38 percent and 34 percent, respectively. Queensland and South Australia tied as the least concerned, with less than a quarter of respondents concerned.

(Image: Roy Morgan)

The polling company then asked survey takers why they felt the way they did, with those unconcerned citing the need to catch terrorists and "bad guys", and that they were law-abiding citizens who had nothing to hide.

"Privacy is now a thing of the past," Roy Morgan quoted one respondent as saying.

"We have it on our passports already. I would be more concerned with social media such as Facebook and Snapchat. They own millions of facial photos which you can never remove," another said.

On the concerned side, respondents labelled the facial recognition system an invasion of privacy, a reduction of civil liberties, and the technology not being up to scratch.

"Government is not competent enough or trustworthy enough to handle information responsibly," one respondent told Roy Morgan.

"Concerned about racial profiling and I want measures to protect against that," said another.

Last week, the Australia government had state and territory leaders agree to use driver's licence photos in the proposed facial biometric database known as The Capability.

Speaking at the national security COAG on Thursday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he and his fellow leaders are committed to ensuring that Australian agencies have the tools, legislative backing, and resources to keep Australians safe and to respond to and prevent terrorist incidents.

"To be clear about this, this is not accessing photo ID information that is not currently available," he said, noting that the database solution will simply be bringing together federal government photo identification, passports, and visas with state- and territory-issued driver's licences.

"These are all available to law enforcement agencies now and have been for many years, if not for generations," he said.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who heads a Labor government, told the forum the issues raised were not a matter of politics, but rather about providing law enforcement agencies with the appropriate tools to do their jobs.

"In my judgement, it would be unforgiveable to not make changes like that when the technology is available, the competence, the know-how, and safeguards are available to effect that change," he said.

Concerns over Australia's ability to secure its digital assets will not have subsided after the Australian Signals Directorate revealed a defence contractor was infiltrated in 2016 and had restricted technical information on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, the C-130 transport aircraft, the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) smart bomb kit, and "a few Australian naval vessels" stolen.

According to ASD, the attacker had three months to exfiltrate the data before it was made aware of the intrusion, and dubbed that period "Alf's Mystery Happy Fun Time".

An ASD investigation found that internet-facing services of the contractor still had their default passwords, admin::admin and guest::guest.

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