Commonwealth Games Security May Include Face Recognition

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Face recognition may be installed on Gold Coast Public transport
Face recognition may be installed on Gold Coast Public transport

ACCORDING to Queensland assistant police commissioner Peter Crawford, Queensland Police and security partners were considering using facial recognition technology during the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast but no decisions had been made.

News Corporation reported that the technology was set to be rolled out on the Gold Coast’s public transport network “to identify potential terror suspects before they can get close to any sporting or public venue”.

The face recognition solution, which unconfirmed reports suggest may be a Cisco product, would be deployed on the Gold Coast’s trains, trams and buses during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games next year. Operationally, the system would allow potential terror suspects to be identified before they can get close to crowded venues.

News of the use of face recognition caused expressions of concern from privacy groups. In the past, discerning face recognition solutions required very specific installation parameters to allow face measuring and matching – in other words, only cameras installed directly facing a person at near head-height could reliably support the technology.

The latest solutions allow 3D images to be created from multiple camera views of a crowd then matched with a database in real time, which allows large crowds to be scanned. However, 3D matching would still require cameras to be lensed, installed, focused and calibrated carefully.

The technical challenges mean worries about co-opting random public surveillance cameras on Gold Coast streets into a larger face recognition system are baseless – as is Qld Privacy Commissioner Green’s fear of racial profiling. Face matching algorithms measure the distances of and between features – typically eyes, nose, mouth, ears. Variables like clothing, hairstyle, skin tone, head coverings and hats are not taken into account.

The face recognition technology would likely be managed by a workstation located in the Gold Coast Council CCTV control room which during the games will be monitored by security staff alongside Qld Police and Federal agents. Alerts from IVA-optioned cameras would be delivered to that workstation and possibly propagated to the VMS managing the overall CCTV system. 

“This technology is constantly evolving. No decisions have been made regarding how and where this technology will be deployed. It is not appropriate to publicly discuss this security strategy further,” Crawford said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for GOLDOC said specific security initiatives could not be discussed.

“A range of safety and security strategies will be deployed for the Games; some of these strategies will be obvious to the community, for example the use of airport-style screening at the entry of all venues,” the spokesperson said.

According to press reports, the Federal Government has allocated $A34 million for the Australian Defence Force component of Commonwealth Games security – this component includes 2000 ADF personnel, special forces, RAN divers, specialist snipers and explosives experts, as well as 200 AFP officers, primarily from intelligence and command and control. This contingent will support 3500 Queensland Police officers and 4200 private security officers. ♦