Australian Considering Facial Tech for Online Gamblers

Elouise Spencer - 07 November 2019

The Australian Department of Home Affairs has suggested using facial recognition technology to bar minors from accessing online gambling and pornography websites.

The security agency’s suggestion has come as a part of an on going probe into the efficacy of numerous age verification systems for websites that offer online casino or sports betting services and adult content. The aforementioned inquiry began last month, after being launched by a parliamentary committee of the federal House of Representatives.

Australia’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security invited members of the public to share ideas for more effective age verification protocols that could be used to protect local youths. Home Affairs floated the notion that an existing facial recognition database could verify that those who seek to gamble online or watch adult content are of a legal age.

VFS Could Be Expanded

Back in 2016, the federal government of the country launched a Face Verification Service (VFS), which was primarily used by governmental departments and the Federal Police to begin with. These institutions used the technology to share and match photographs of individuals seeking Australian citizenship.

Home Affairs informed the committee tasked with reviewing effective age verification methods that it could be a positive move to expand the database and subject porn viewers and online gamblers to facial scans. The scans could then be used to compare their faces to those already in the database and match them with ID numbers.

According to the security agency, this measure could aid the age verification process in a number of ways. The example given was that the move could prevent minors from using their parents’ IDs or drivers licenses to circumvent verification protocols and gain access to adult content.

Potential for Misuse of Data

Under Home Affairs’ plan, the data in the FVS database could also be made available to private organisations like telecoms and banks. The proposal has been heavily criticised by privacy campaigners, who feel that the measure could quickly lead to mass surveillance and a concerning breach of individual privacy in the wrong hands.

The Department’s idea was floated just a few days after the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security rejected similar identity-matching service bills. The committee noted that the legislative pieces should be rewritten to include better privacy protection and other safeguards against potential misuse of Australian citizens’ personal data.

In September, the UK government ditched plans for the introduction of a national age verification system for adult websites after years of implementation failures and technical glitches. The policy would have required iGaming and porn websites to use different measures to verify the ages of their users. This notion was also condemned by privacy proponents.