Adelaide council rules out facial recognition on city CCTV network

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Adelaide council rules out facial recognition on city CCTV network

Software, hardware to enable functionality was never bought.

Adelaide City Council says it has not purchased the software licences to enable facial recognition on its new CCTV network and has recommitted not to use the technology before legislation is developed.

At a special meeting last night, the council sought to clarify the capabilities of its new CCTV network after it emerged that SA Police had not provided formal assurance it would not use the technology.

A letter was sent to SA Police in November asking for a formal undertaking that they would not use the facial recognition capabilities “unless and until the parliament of South Australia adopts legislation”.

It was prompted a council report [pdf] earlier that month noting that “it will be the decision of SAPOL whether these [object tracing, facial and number plate recognition] functions will be turned on”.

But it now appears the council had already ruled out the use of the facial recognition capability on the cameras in November and subsequently procured the new hardware without the functionality, meaning SA Police will not have access to the technology.

The council last night heard that the intent of the motion passed in November had been “understood” by council staff as precluding the procurement of facial recognition functionality.

“That motion... was the reason why we did not go ahead and purchase any of the hardware or software required for facial recognition,” business solutions team leader Sonjoy Ghosh said.

Ghosh said the solution had been procured in December to ensure that the CCTV was futureproof, but that the cameras currently being rolled out would not have this functionality enabled.

“The software that’s required to actually enable facial recognition, and the additional hardware required, was not purchased in the tender process,” he told councillors during the meeting.

Ghosh said there is “no ability for SA Police to turn on the facial recognition without City of Adelaide expressly doing it”, as it owns all of the assets and infrastructure across the network.

“[SA Police] actually don’t have the keys to the system; we hold the keys to the system,” he told the committee.

Ghosh's comments followed a motion by councillor Alex Hyde that council had “neither procured nor purchased the necessary backend hardware or software licences required to enable facial recognition”.

A second motion reiterated that the council’s “commitment to not use camera facial recognition technology unless and until the parliament in South Australia adopts legislation or regulation”.

Both motions – which were the reason for the special meeting – were said to be “in accordance with the council decision” in November that sought the undertaking from SA Police.

iTnews has been unable to locate any motion specifically ruling out the use of the facial recognition capability in council minutes until last night. A spokesperson for the council referred to the motion seeking an undertaking from SA Police in November.

It is unclear why the council sought the undertaking from SA Police not to use the technology when there was no way for the force to bypass the council and use the switch on the functionality.

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