Australia Introduces ‘Orwellian’ Police-Enforced Facial Recognition COVID App
As the country’s crackdown on coronavirus restrictions continues, parts of Australia are introducing a new facial recognition app to keep tabs on people quarantining.
The trial is taking place in South Australia (SA), and is aimed at ensuring people quarantine at home – and stay at home throughout the quarantine period.
While initially intended for people returning to New South Wales and Victoria, Premier Steven Marshall hopes the trial will expand to international travellers in ‘subsequent weeks’.
The experimental trial involves those quarantining at home downloading an app developed by the South Australian Government, which will use facial recognition and geo-location to make sure people are staying at home.
The app will contact people at random, ABC News reports, and will require those quarantining to prove their location within 15 minutes of receiving the notification.
Premier Marshall added, ‘We don’t tell them how often or when, on a random basis they have to reply within 15 minutes.’
If the person does not verify their identity or location, the police will be alerted and carry out an in-person check. ‘We just use it to verify that people are where they said they were going to be during the home-based quarantine,’ Marshall said.
Writing in The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf described the app as ‘Orwellian’, asking, ‘If a country indefinitely forbids its own citizens from leaving its borders […] puts strict rules on intrastate travel, prohibits citizens from leaving home without an excuse from an official government list […] is that country still a liberal democracy?’
However, Friedersdorf also noted that Australia’s strict rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have worked in the past; the virus has killed 194 of every 100,000 Americans, but only four of every 100,000 Australians.
Marshall said the SA government is trialling the app because it’s ‘implausible’ to carry on using medi-hotels for international travellers to quarantine in as the country begins to open its borders again.
We are trying to take some of the cost associated with home-based quarantine out.
In the past where we have had this option for people coming from interstate and in the early days from overseas, it required a very heavy police presence to go and check on them.
Now we have had a great uptake of the QR code check-in app here in South Australia, people say it’s the best in the country, I think they’re right and now we are the national selected pilot for this home-based quarantine app.
The government hopes the use of the app during home-based quarantine will increase quarantine capacity, while also reducing reliance on police officers enforcing isolation measures.
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