Adelaide City Council said it had not purchased the software licenses to enable facial recognition on its new CCTV network and had re-committed not to use the technology before the legislation was drafted.
At a special meeting last night, the council sought to clarify the capabilities of its new CCTV network after it emerged South African police had failed to provide formal assurances that they would not use not technology.
A letter was sent to South African police in November asking for a formal undertaking not to use facial recognition capabilities “unless and until the South Australian parliament passes legislation”.
He was prompted a council report [pdf] earlier that month, noting that “it will be SAPOL’s decision if these [object tracing, facial and number plate recognition] the functions will be activated”.
But it now appears the council had already ruled out the use of facial recognition capability on the cameras in November and then bought the new hardware without the feature, meaning South African police will not have access to it. technology.
Last night the council learned that the intent of the motion passed in November had been ‘understood’ by council staff as excluding the acquisition of facial recognition functionality.
“This motion…was the reason we didn’t buy the hardware or software needed for facial recognition,” said Sonjoy Ghosh, business solutions team leader.
Ghosh said the solution was purchased in December to ensure video surveillance was future proof, but currently deployed cameras would not have this feature enabled.
“The software required to enable facial recognition and the additional hardware required were not purchased as part of the tender process,” he told advisers at the meeting.
Ghosh said there was “no possibility for the South African police to activate facial recognition without the city of Adelaide expressly doing so”, as it owns all the assets and infrastructure of the network.
“[SA Police] don’t actually have the system keys; we hold the keys to the system,” he told the committee.
Ghosh’s comments followed a motion by councilor Alex Hyde that the council had “neither purchased nor purchased the hardware or software licenses necessary to enable facial recognition”.
A second motion reiterated that ‘Council’s commitment not to use camera-based facial recognition technology unless and until the South Australian Parliament passes legislation or regulation’.
Both movements – which were the reason for the special meeting – were said to have been “in accordance with the decision of the council” in November which requested the engagement of the South African police.
iTnews was unable to locate any motions specifically excluding the use of facial recognition capability in council minutes until last night. A spokesperson for the council referred to the request for a commitment from the South African police in November.
It is unclear why the council asked the South African police to pledge not to use the technology when there was no way for the force to bypass the council and use the switch on functionality.