Darwin, Australia.

Darwin City Council has promised it will not use live face recognition in its safe city public surveillance system after 138 new CCTV cameras, public Wi-Fi, lighting and smart sensors were installed around the CBD as part of the ‘Switching On Darwin’ project.

Josh Sattler, the council’s general manager for innovation and growth, said the analytics-enabled cameras would be used for things such as vehicle counting, but not facial recognition.

“Yes, they have [facial recognition] capability but it’s not something we’re using … we don’t see a situation where we will require that,” he said. “In saying that, from requests coming through from a state or federal agency (as part of criminal investigations), we’ll need to comply with that request.”

Sattler acknowledged there may be community concerns about the technology and said the council would hold more public information sessions in the future.

“I admit we still have got a lot of work to do but, in saying that, I see the benefit from the community to be onboard and to take the journey with us, because we are doing it for the community,” he said. “We’re not doing it just because it’s a political agenda-driven thing to do; we are doing it to deliver better services.”

Earlier this month, Darwin City Council announced it had hired a consultant to carry out a privacy impact assessment on all the new technology, with the investigation likely be completed in the next 6 months.

NT information commissioner Peter Shoyer said recently council was operating legally, and the privacy of Darwin residents would be protected.

“I think there are the legal protections in place there,” Shoyer said. “It’s important that everyone – whether it’s council or members of the public – to take an interest in this area, to be aware, and to keep asking questions.”

The Federal Government contributed $A5 million to the $10 million Switching on Darwin project under its Smart Cities and Suburbs grant programme.

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