Crime and Justice Research Member Dr Monique Mann’s research on facial recognition has inspired Anna Sinclair – a photographer based in Sydney – who has been selected as one of 41 finalists in the prestigious National Photographic Portrait Prize 2018, for her work, ‘The Capability’, which brings attention to the creation of the National Facial Biometric Recognition Capability.
Anna discusses the background to her photograph and the inspiration for it:
“Through this work I am trying to bring attention to the creation of The Capability and the risks it poses to the privacy of every Australian that holds a driver’s licence or a passport. Despite what the Federal and state governments have said, the creation of this system that allows government agencies to identify people from a pool of images made up primarily of law-abiding citizens is extraordinary and I find it concerning how little consideration and weight has been given to the privacy implications of it.
Another important aspect of the work is how the creation of a national system of images, combined with facial recognition technology, significantly changes the function of a digital portrait. Portraits have long been objects that both represent and celebrate the uniqueness of individuals, and allow us to reflect on the human experience. With this technology a digital portrait becomes a simple tool by which government agencies can easily identify a person and obtain their biographical information, without their knowledge or consent.
The inspiration for this work came from my research into the broader national security changes that we have seen in the age of counter terrorism, which is feeding into a longer-term project. As part of that research I was in contact with Dr Monique Mann whose work provided a very useful grounding in the use and development of facial recognition technology in Australia. In August 2017, I also attended the Workshop on the Social Implications of National Security co-convened by Dr Mann where the privacy and social impacts of new surveillance technologies, big data and facial recognition technology were discussed and debated by some of the leading experts in the field. It often seems like there are few people watching and getting concerned with the changes that our governments are introducing in the name of national security, so it was really encouraging to be amongst a group of people that are committed to it.”
The National Photographic Portrait Prize is currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra until 17 June 2018. The images of all of the finalists can be viewed here: https://nppp.portrait.gov.au/
Dr Monique Mann has recently published a co-authored book on Biometrics, Crime and Security in the Routledge Law, Science and Society Series and as part of her public policy work on this issue has also recently co-authored a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security Review of the Identity-matching Services Bill 2018 and the Australian Passports Amendment (Identity-matching Services) Bill 2018 that provides the legislative basis for The Capability.