Discussion paper

Government’s forced rollout of facial recognition for home quarantine needs strict limits and protections

COVID-19 Electronic surveillance Pandemics Artificial Intelligence (AI) Disease management Infectious diseases Privacy Quarantine Human rights

As states around Australia plan for life after lockdown, home quarantine is being hailed as a potentially significant part of our pandemic management infrastructure. In order for home quarantine to work, governments need the ability to monitor individuals and prove that they are complying with the quarantine.

The South Australian and Western Australian governments have used a combination of facial recognition and global positioning system (GPS) technology to police these individuals. NSW and Victoria have also announced trials using the same technology. Facial recognition is of particular concern, with the technology proving to have systemic weaknesses and limitations, including errors in identifying female faces and people of colour, and risks of privacy and ethical abuses.

The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology does not support the use of facial recognition technology for home quarantine and general pandemic monitoring.

Key recommendations:

  • Constrain facial recognition to a single use with strict limits
  • Update State privacy legislation
  • Develop strong human rights protections in law
  • Establish an Artificial Intelligence ethics advisory group
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