Border Force admits that its use of body-worn video camera during operations could be in violation of Australian privacy laws.

Border Force has been trialling the use of GoPro on-body recording devices during on-water operations, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection revealed in a response to a question on notice from the last round of Senate Estimates hearings. 

The department said a “small number” of GoPro cameras were issued for specific situations where Border Force agents board vessels at sea, and a second batch of cameras were bought  “to evaluate the capability and to examine associated legislative, technical, training and other issues”:

“This evaluation is on-going. Since the integration of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, no Go Pro camera units have been formally issued to Australian Border Force (ABF) officers for operational purposes.”

But the department admitted the use of the cameras outside of on-water matters, if it became an agency-wide rollout, would potentially be in violation of Australian state and federal privacy laws:

“Under current law, the use of BWC [body-worn cameras] with both audio and visual recording capabilities by an ABF officer, without the consent of the subjects concerned, risks breaching state and territory laws as well as Commonwealth privacy legislation.”

If the department does decide to roll out the cameras, it said Border Force officers will be required to process video evidence, which would increase the administrative burden on the mega agency.

The department also confirmed that tasers were not bought or used by Australian Border Force officers.

The shiny new black uniforms worn by Australian Border Force officers were sourced from Australian companies but the “majority” of the uniforms were made overseas, the documents also revealed. The taxpayer paid $6.7 million for the new uniforms and protective gear for Border Force officers, including for branded shirts, pants, skirts, heavy weather gear, belts, name tags, hats, badges and ballistic vests.

Another $15,950 was spent on 300 Australian-made flags to be used by Border Force, while $7000 was spent on ABF-branded plush dogs — less than half the original estimate of $15,000.

The total cost for gear for the newly-created Border Force was $9.6 million.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey