(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media)

Australia’s outgoing human rights commissioner has sounded the alarm about Australia “sliding into mass surveillance” if it continues to embrace the use of facial recognition technology. Edward Santow also criticised governments using the spectre of terrorism to pass broad laws that infringe on Australians’ privacy and end up being used for other purposes. 

These remarks come after the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) published a long-awaited report on human rights and technology in Australia. It took the significant step of recommending a temporary ban on the use of biometric technologies like facial recognition in areas of decision-making that are considered high-risk, such as by law enforcement or for government services. 

Santow, speaking at a webinar hosted by Monash University earlier this week, reiterated his concern about how facial recognition technology in particular presents a real threat to Australians, both due to the limited accuracy of technology and the risk of mass surveillance.