Victoria uploads data for national facial recognition system


Victoria will begin uploading driver’s licence photographs to the federal government National Driver Licence Facial Recognition Solution (NDLFRS).

The NDLFRS is operated by the federal Department of Home Affairs.

The Victorian government’s announcement today marks a significant step towards the full launch of a national Australian facial recognition system, although for now use of the images will be restricted to state agencies.

VicRoads and Victoria Police will use the system to unearth duplicate IDs and fraud, the state government said.

The government said agencies in other states and territories and federal entities will be unable to access the Victorian images until it is satisfied with federal enabling legislation for the system, which will facilitate a number of facial identification and facial verification services.

The relevant legislation is currently being examined by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).

The Commonwealth bill outlines five identity-matching services, including face verification, face identification, the One Person One Licence Service (to identify individuals that hold multiple licences), a utility service to assess the accuracy and quality of facial data holdings, and a service for securely sharing biometric identity information between government agencies.

Although Victoria is a party to the October 2017 Council of Australian Governments agreement to establish the new system, the state government has indicated some qualms with the proposed federal legislation.

“This technology will help keep government agencies ahead of the pack when it comes to combating identity fraud, which is one of the most common and costly crimes facing our state,” Gavin Jennings, Victoria’s special minister of state, said in a statement released today.

“We are doing this as part of a national agreement, while ensuring the privacy of Victorians is not compromised.”

“This will make it harder for people to conceal their true identities and use multiple licences to avoid traffic fines, demerit points or licence cancellations,” said Victoria’s roads minister Jaala Pulford.

“This will greatly assist in removing unauthorised and dangerous drivers from our roads.”

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Tags privacybiometricsfacial recognitionThe Capability




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Facebook says ACCC recommendations would make targeted advertising ‘practically unworkable’


Facebook has endorsed a range of measures to strengthen Australian privacy law but rejected some of the recommendations from the Digital Platforms Inquiry of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Facebook says that some ACCC’s recommendations would “make targeted advertising practically unworkable in Australia” and put Australia “out of step with other countries such as Singapore and the European Union.”

In a response to a government consultation on the ACCC’s recommendations in the final report of the inquiry, the social networking giant called for Australian alignment with the European Union’s GDPR privacy regime. The company said some ACCC recommendations would deliver a much more expansive definition of personal information than that outlined in the EU privacy rules.

Among the ACCC’s recommendations were a range of changes to the Privacy Act, including updates that clarify the term “personal information” captures “technical data such as IP addresses, device identifiers, location data, and any other online identifiers that may be used identify an individual”.

“This would be at odds with the GDPR,” Facebook argued, which treats such data as personal information “only where it is used, or combined with other data, to identify an individual”.




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Optus keen to access government’s face-matching service


Optus has endorsed the creation of a national biometrics system that will offer services based on a range of facial images held by federal, state and territory bodies.

The government earlier this year resurrected two bills that lapsed when parliament was dissolved in preparation for the federal election.

The bills will create a new system (dubbed ‘The Capability’) with a hub and spoke architecture that will facilitate access to a range of separately maintained databases containing facial images, such as state and territory driver’s licence databases. A range of services will be delivered through the system, including facial verification and facial identification services.

The government has indicated it is keen to have the enabling federal legislation passed before the end of 2019. Eventual private sector access to some services has long been on the government’s radar.

While the Facial Identification Service (FIS) will be restricted to law enforcement, anti-corruption and intelligence agencies, the Face Verification Service (FVS), the first phase of which launched in 2016, will potentially be used by non-government organisations.




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Google open sources differential privacy dev library – Security – Software


Google has released an open source version of a differential privacy software library that the company uses for its core products, on Github.

Differential privacy is a concept that provides mathematical assurance of protection of information deemed private, ensuring it can’t be reconstructed, by introducing random noise into the data and limiting what can be gleaned about subjects with privacy budgets.

It allows researchers to learn and infer insights from large data collections, without distinguishing sensitive individual information which would weaken privacy protection.

Implementing differential privacy in analytical tools can be difficult however, and Google’s privacy and data protection product manager Miguel Guevara said the company had focused on features such as calculating bounds on user contributions to make life easier for developers.

A PostgreSQL database extension and sample recipes are included to help developers get started with the differential privacy library.

Developers can also use the stochastic tester bundled with the differential privacy library to help prevent mistakes in their code.

Guevara said Google hopes developers will leverage the library to build out their comprehensive data privacy strategies.

Differentially private methods are used by Google to add features to its products such as informing users how busy restaurants listed in Google Maps are, without revealing who is dining at the eatery at a certain time.

Google relies on accurately targeted advertising for the majority of its revenue, and has been criticised for excessive tracking of users and overly broad collection of their information.

Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined Google’s YouTube video sharing site US$170 million for collecting data on children under the age of 13, without seeking their parents’ consent which is a legal requirement in the United States.

In May this year, the Irish Data Protection Commission opened up a statutory inquiry into Google Ireland’s processing of personal data as part of its Ad Exchange which may breach the European Union’s strict General Data Protection Regulation laws, following submissions from browser vendor Brave and others.

Fines under the GDPR can be as much as four per cent of a company’s annual turnover.

In Google’s case, it could face a penalty of US$5.5 billion, based on a worldwide turnover of US$137 last year.

The open source version of the modular privacy library is released under the Apache 2.0 license, but isn’t officially supported by Google.


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Facebook brings face recognition to all users, discontinues ‘Tag Suggestions’


Facebook is opening up its face recognition technology to all users with an option to opt out, the social media company said on Tuesday, as it discontinued a related feature called “Tag Suggestions.”

The old feature enabled users to choose whether Facebook could suggest that their friends tag them in photos, without giving them control over other uses of the technology.

The face recognition setting, available to some Facebook users since December 2017, has additional functions such as notifying account holders if their profile photo is used by someone else.

People who opt in to the new setting will still have tag suggestions automatically generated about them.

Facebook’s face recognition technology has been at the center of a privacy related lawsuit since 2015.




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Breach notification rules for new government data scheme, but no consent for sharing


New legislation that will enable data collected by public sector agencies to be more easily shared is expected to be accompanied by new rules for data breach notifications, a discussion paper released today by the government said.

The government in May 2018 said it would introduce a new data sharing and release framework as part of a package of reforms sparked by the Productivity Commission’s report on the availability and use of data.

Development of the proposed framework is inspired partly by the UK ‘Five Safes’ principles.

The Office of the National Data Commissioner (ONDC), which was established last year by the government, today released a consultation paper on the development of data sharing and release legislation. The paper states that the ONDC is still considering the kind of data breach scheme that is needed for the new framework.

In February 2018, the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme, which is overseen by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) and covers a range of personal information about individuals, came into effect.

“The Data Sharing and Release legislation requires a different kind of notification scheme for the vast range of data falling outside the Privacy Act 1988 notifications scheme,” the ONDC consultation paper states.




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Chinese face-swapping app goes viral, sparks privacy concerns – Networking – Software


ZAO – a new Chinese app that lets users swap their faces with celebrities, sports stars or anyone else in a video clip – racked up millions of downloads on the weekend but swiftly drew fire over privacy issues.

The app’s surge in popularity and sudden backlash from some users highlights how artificial intelligence (AI) technologies bring about new concerns surrounding identity verification.

ZAO was uploaded to China’s iOS App Store on Friday and immediately went viral. According to a post from the app makers on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, ZAO’s servers nearly crashed due to the surge in traffic.

According to App Annie, a firm that tracks app downloads all over the world, ZAO was the most-downloaded free app in China’s iOS App Store as of Sept. 1.

Consumers sign-up for ZAO with their phone number and upload images of their face, using photographs taken with their smartphone.

They can then choose from a range of videos of celebrities on which to superimpose their face, and share the videos with their friends.

In addition to Chinese celebrities, other famous faces on the app include Leonardo DiCaprio and Marilyn Monroe.

Gu Shi, a 21-year-old student in Shanghai, downloaded ZAO after seeing her friends post clips on their WeChat feeds.

“I’ve never tried using Japanese makeup and hairstyles because it’s too complicated to do all by myself,” she told Reuters.

“This app gave me a chance to try a totally different style from my normal life.”

As the app went viral, some users complained that its privacy policy could endanger them.

One section of the user agreement stated that consumers who upload their images to ZAO agree to surrender the intellectual property rights to their face, and permit ZAO to use their images for marketing purposes.

Zao said on Weibo that it would address those concerns.

“We thoroughly understand the anxiety people have towards privacy concerns,” the company said. “We have received the questions you have sent us. We will correct the areas we have not considered and require some time.”

ZAO was published by Momo Inc, best-known as makers of a dating app that later transformed into a livestreaming service. The company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014.

Momo did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.


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Chinese face-swapping app goes viral, invites criticism over privacy clause


Last week, a Chinese social app developer named Momo introduced a face-swapping app called Zao. The app, which lets you overlay your face in existing photos and video, shot to the top spot in the entertainment section on the App store, and posts with Zao-related hashtags gathered over 8 million views on Chinese social network Weibo. But along with its immense popularity, it stirred up a ton of privacy concerns.

If this tweet is to be believed, Zao does an astonishingly good job of swapping faces:

The app uses the same artificial intelligence technique deployed by deepfakes to swap faces in photos and videos. Bloomberg noted that, alarmingly, the previous version of the app had a clause that gave full rights to the company to use your photos as “free, irrevocable, permanent, transferable, and relicense-able” property. It meant the company could use and send your photos to a third-party without your specific authorization.