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Fears surveillance cameras linked to racial profiling

A CIVIL liberties group is warning surveillance technology trialled in Toowoomba has been linked to racial profiling, suggesting it is akin to the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Toowoomba Regional Council announced on March 1 it was using specialised camera analytics software at the Toowoomba City Library.

The technology, developed by iOmniscient, is capable of people counting, crowd management and is able to more easily identify abandoned and missing objects.

It has the capacity to alert camera operators to acts of vandalism and can also be used for number plate and facial recognition.

Michael Cope, the president of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, said there was evidence from the United States the technology was racially and ethnically biased.

New technology by iOmniscient, a leading company in video analytics, is being rolled out in Toowoomba.
New technology by iOmniscient, a leading company in video analytics, is being rolled out in Toowoomba.

"It tends to be better at identifying white people than black people. Innocent black people are being picked up more often than others," he said.

He questioned whether the council had contacted the Office of the Information Commissioner Queensland regarding the trial.

The Queensland privacy commissioner, Philip Green, told Fairfax he had not been consulted by the council. 

Mr Cope called for the council to specify which information would be stored and who would have access to it.

He said the QCCL had a longstanding issue with councils continually recording people's behaviour.

"We don't think there's any evidence that they reduce crime," he said.

Should council use technology to analyse people in public?

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"The United Kingdom has than 10,000 cameras and they don't reduce crime. They move criminals to places where there are no cameras."

Mr Cope said the Ipswich council had installed cameras which were later used to impose parking fines on the general public and later backed down after an outcry.

"We don't want them 'hoovering' up everyone's number plates and putting them in a database," he said.

Mr Cope said the technology was "straight out of Nineteen Eighty-Four".

Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio said the council's one month trial of specialised camera analytics software would comply with all relevant privacy legislation.

He said the council would contact the commissioner to seek clarification about relevant parts of the act or regulations, where and when relevant.

 

"No personal information will be stored. Raw data, such as the number of people who have visited a facility, could be stored," Cr Antonio said.

"Any footage gathered under this trial will be stored on the council's CCTV storage server in accordance with existing protocols."

He also confirmed access to this material was restricted to authorised council staff and contractors in accordance with the regulations.

Cr Antonio said the use of CCTVs and any video footage is governed under various state and federal legislation including the Right to Information Act, Closed Circuit Television Standard, Information Privacy Act and Managing Closed Circuit Television Recordings.

"It's just one camera in the library," he told ABC radio.

Topics:  cameras cctv gadgets technology toowoomba


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