Australia, June 17, 2020: It is clear from recent events that the debate surrounding the collection of biometric data was and continues to increase in volume, it is arguably not expanding in scope, creating risks and missed opportunities for regulators and innovators.

2020 has been a rollercoaster ride for many reasons, including the ebb and flow of media headlines about — and support for bans on — the use of facial recognition technology.

The rush to suspend the use of facial recognition, and the use of reactive regulation, risks stifling the necessary responsible innovation to get the technology right.  The past six months have seen detailed journalistic investigations of Clearview AI, the deployment of surveillance technologies for COVID-19 response, and now increased scrutiny and suspicion of the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement as a result of the recent protests.

Then in the last week we had announcements by technology companies such as IBM and Amazon that they will temporarily or permanently cease offering such technologies to law enforcement.  This means that the need to seriously consider the use of such technology in both the public and private sector is as urgent as ever.

In Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission has proposed the introduction of a “legal moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology in decision making that has a legal, or similarly significant, effect for individuals.”  But it is time to reconsider these ‘default’ short-term, reactive responses to new and emerging technologies.

Although it is no less critical to respond to the issues raised by facial recognition technology, a fragmented and inconsistent approach limits the effectiveness of potential regulatory responses and makes it difficult to ‘future-proof’ the implementation of such technology.

This is not to suggest that all regulation impedes innovation. In fact, regulation can be an innovation ‘enabler’ for industry, helping participants establish or maintain consistency of operations and a social licence to operate, and creating an environment for industry to flourish.

However, regulation must be implemented in a way that advances a coherent and holistic global standard to do so.

The imposition of a ban or moratorium on a specific technology is unlikely to further the development of a global standard but could instead stifle innovation (including responsible innovation).

This current regulatory approach to such technologies focuses too narrowly on specific aspects of the technology being regulated, rather than the manner in which it is used and the outcomes achieved by it. In relation to facial recognition technology, this means first that too little emphasis is placed on whether each implementation is effective, fit for purpose, or accompanied by appropriate safeguards.

Source: LEXOLOGY article