Look, we all trust the New South Wales Government 100%. That goes without saying. We know that Australia’s most flamboyant police state can absolutely be counted on to consider the best interests of its citizens at all times. That being said… I’m not certain we should follow the lead of Transport Minister Andrew Constance and turn the Opal card system into a facial recognition database.
In a speech to the Sydney Institute earlier this week, Constance said the state’s transport network was moving towards “frictionless transport payments.” Basically: facial recognition.
In the transport space we’ll use facial recognition technology to scan customers who’ve ‘opted in’ and linked their Opal account. No more gate barriers – just a smooth journey.
In his speech, Constance discussed the need to consider technologies like that considering the increasing demand on Sydney’s transport network.
Sydney’s train network carries 420 million passengers a year. That’s up from 308 million passenger trips five years ago. There isn’t another railway in the world which has seen a 35 percent patronage demand increase and that’s why the NSW government is investing over $4.3 billion on the Sydney trains network alone.
Sounds lovely. You don’t need to reach into your pocket for your Opal card or your wallet! You can just look at a camera and be admitted to Town Hall station – completely frictionlessly! This is surely the future the Jetsons promised us. All of us should be absolutely thrilled by the prospect of a state agency which regularly surrenders transport data to police having a big face registry on hand too. Brilliant! Can’t go wrong!
This plays into Constance’s articulated vision of a ‘Netflix for transport’, whereby you could pay a monthly fee and get access to a wide variety of transport options including metro services, e-bike rentals, rideshares, and so on. It’s a big, lofty vision, and right now it’s just that: a vision. No details have been provided on how NSW would implement such a thing.
A spokesperson for Constance told the ABC there was presently no timeframe on introducing face recognition / validation or any technology like it. Let’s hope it stays as a brain fart.