Australian Government Proposes Facial Recognition For Online Gambling

Australian online casino users could soon have to verify their age via facial recognition according to reports.

The Department of Home Affairs has proposed using facial recognition technology for online age verification. This technology is set to be used for Australians wanting to access online gambling and pornography.

A document entitled Submission to the Inquiry into Age Verification for Online Wagering and Online Pornography highlights the proposals. Passages of the document read:

“Home Affairs has lead agency responsibility for the National Identity Security Strategy, which provides a framework for inter-governmental cooperation to strengthen Australia’s personal identification processes. Maintaining effective identity security is important given one in four Australians will be a victim of identity crime at some point in their lives. With an estimated annual direct cost of more than $2 billion to the economy. Home Affairs notes the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference have particular regard to policies and practices (including technical and privacy requirements) that relate to, and enable improved age verification requirements. Home Affairs also notes that the focus of this inquiry is not the legitimate use of online wagering and online pornography.”

Cobat continued, “Home Affairs is developing a Face Verification Service which matches a person’s photo against images used on one of their evidence of identity documents to help verify their identity. The Face Verification Service complements the Document Verification Service by preventing the use of stolen as well as fake identity information. This could assist in age verification. For example by preventing a minor from using their parent’s driver licence to circumvent age verification controls.”

Facial Recognition Tech Raises Concerns

While the government is making these proposals under the guise of protecting minors, people are sceptical. Some believe the real intention is to expand the use of facial recognition technology. This in turn would build a database of Australians’ internet gambling habits.

Facial Recognition technology exists today but it does provide false positives and show biases. The Department of Home Affairs revealed it wants facial recognition technology everywhere possible.

“Whilst they are primarily designed to prevent identity crime, Home Affairs would support the increased use of the Document and Face Verification Services across the Australian economy to strengthen age verification processes.”

Anthony Cabot, a Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law, says there are other less intrusive methods of age verification. Cabot is also concerned about privacy laws.

“In the context of online gambling, the use of facial recognition is particularly effective. Especially where the scan can be compared to government databases such as drivers’ license photos or passports.”

What Other Methods Are There?

Cabot said gambling operations can access a patron’s credit records and have their identity confirmed via a series of questions. This allows the venue to ask personal questions only a legitimate user would know the answers to.

Benefits of the Proposal

The government argues that the introduction of facial recognition technology could offer several benefits, including:

  • Preventing Underage Gambling: By verifying the age of users more accurately, facial recognition technology can help prevent minors from accessing and participating in online gambling.
  • Combatting Problem Gambling: Facial recognition can be used to identify individuals who have voluntarily self-excluded from gambling platforms, helping to enforce their exclusion and support their recovery efforts.
  • Enhancing Security: By ensuring that only verified users can access online gambling platforms, facial recognition technology can also enhance the overall security of these platforms, protecting against fraud and identity theft.

Concerns and Criticisms

Despite the potential benefits, the proposal has raised significant concerns among privacy advocates, technology experts, and some members of the public. Key criticisms include:

  • Privacy Concerns: The use of facial recognition technology raises significant privacy issues, with critics arguing that it could lead to the mass surveillance of users and the collection of sensitive biometric data by both the government and private companies.
  • Accuracy and Bias: Questions have been raised about the accuracy of facial recognition technology, particularly its potential for bias and errors, which could lead to individuals being wrongly excluded from gambling platforms.
  • Technological Challenges: Implementing facial recognition technology across all online gambling platforms could pose significant technological challenges, including the need for robust and secure systems to protect users’ biometric data.