Tag Archives: Security

Another passport control failure at an Australian airport, and again no explanation from Australian Border Force


If Australian Border Force are using an unreliable facial recognition technology for border control, does the Australian public have a right to know?

Warning from a counter-terrorism expert

Australian airport security lack key skill to protect travellers: expert.

James Ried
The New Daily.


Can you spot a sex offender or a terrorist just by looking at their face?

Adee, Sally Controversial software claims to tell personality from your face. New Scientist. May 27th 2016.

Similar story also in print: Issue 3076. June 4th 2016.



Department of Parliamentary Services security staff need to identify Parliament House visitors by face – but how?

I’m watching a lot of discussion about the Abbott Government’s embarrassing reversal of the controversial “burqa ban” regarding visitors to the Australian federal parliament in Canberra. Media reports state that all visitors will be required to reveal their faces temporarily to security staff, but there is no proper explanation of why. Why do people need to show their faces to staff, unless their faces are being photographed, recorded or memorized using some kind of technology or human ability, or are being screened in a systematic way by a human or technological system that is based on a suitably comprehensive library of stored or memorized facial images? I have my doubts that any of these things are actually happening. I’ve read nothing to indicate that human super-recognizers or a technological substitute for this kind of face recognition ability is being used by police or security services in Australia, even though there is a large collection of media and scientific reports of human and computerized facial recognition being used in the UK and USA. Another question that I’ve not seen addressed in recent media reports is the question of who is going to be targeted by the new requirement of facial inspection, and what are the criteria for adequate facial disclosure. I believe passport photos require no glasses to be worn and a neutral facial expression, and this certainly makes sense in terms of human facial recognition. Will the same rules apply at Parliament House, or will men be allowed to walk into Parliament without removing any element of the “bogan disguise” of sunglasses, goatee beard and baseball cap? I wonder, are visitors routinely asked to remove hats and hoodies in Parliament House? Why haven’t we had calls for a ban on dark sunglasses in Parliament House? Dark sunnies are clearly used very commonly by Australians of all ethnic backgrounds as a facial concealment. They are very popular among police and also dodgy people. It is pretty obvious to me that racism has played a large role in this hoo-haa over faces and identity and security, because the hypocrisy is obvious.


Super-recognizers? Why bother?

The world must be amazed and horrified by the recent disappearance of a jet plane full of passengers in Asia, with no trace of evidence to confirm what has happened to the flight. At least two things are remarkable about the disappearance of MH370; the lack of evidence of the whereabouts of the plane or wreckage, and the revelation of the lack of care commonly practiced in many countries in checking passports.

I don’t travel much, but it is my understanding that passports have photos in them that border-control staff are supposed to check against the appearance of the person presenting the passport as theirs, to see if the person in the photo is the same person claiming to own the passport. Clearly, it would be a good idea to hire super-recognizers to work in this role. But this idea seems almost comical when one considers that there is such a lax degree of border control practiced at many airports that it is reportedly a common thing for people to travel on passports that have been reported as stolen and are entered on an international database of suspect passports. The fact that two of the people on the missing place were travelling on stolen passports is therefore now seen as not such a big deal, and is not considered to be solid evidence of terrorist activity. While border control and security is such a low priority and so poorly done, we can hardly expect that organizations responsible for these functions will show much interest in recruiting super-recognizers.

Are those cameras just for decoration?

After the many incidents that I’ve seen first-hand or know about second-hand and the lack of an effective response by those whose job it is supposed to be to safeguard security in public places, large shopping centres, workplaces and on public transport, I think those shiny domes that we now see everywhere whenever we look up are mostly there as a deterrent to people with evil designs, to give the public a false sense of security and to provide recorded forensic evidence for use by police after some major crime had happened. In my experience, it is naive to expect that CCTV recordings will be useful, available or accessible in investigating a theft or minor crime against a member of the public, and I also think it naive to expect that any particular CCTV is being capably monitored by anyone, let alone a person with certified face or visual recognition ability such as a super-recognizer. In my experience, even though many workplaces can be assumed to have at least cameras installed for security, it is naive to expect that they will be monitored or recordings checked to guard the safety of employees. Members of the public, shoppers, passengers, employees and victims of crime or workplace bullying don’t own or control those cameras and as far as I know have no legal right to access any recordings, even if those are recordings involving themselves. They aren’t my cameras and they aren’t your cameras. Don’t believe the hype.

Another thing worth mentioning – those “gated” private communities for retirees and the elderly – if there is no employed security guard or security contractor or other person appointed with an explicit responsibility for security, or there is one and she or he is on holiday, or on a RDO, or is sick and has no replacement, or is not rostered on shift, or is busy doing other duties or is patrolling another site, what do you think is likely to happen should there be a threat to security? A theoretical security officer can’t intervene in an actual crime.