Australia has entered the realm of a prison state with an app that uses facial recognition technology and geo-location to enforce home quarantines. If you don't respond in 15 minutes, the police will be at your door.
Facial Recognition Software to Police Pandemic Rules
The G2G Now app uses facial recognition and geo-location to make sure travelers returning to South Australia quarantine in their home
Residents will be randomly contacted by the app to provide proof of their identity and location; they’ll have 15 minutes to respond with a selfie, and if they don’t, or their location doesn’t match up with where they’re supposed to be, police will be at their doorstep
Developed by tech firm Genvis Pty Ltd in 2020, the app is part of Genvis’ G2G suite of services, which were developed in partnership with the Western Australia Police Force
Australia appears to have entered a police state and some believe it’s time to question at what point it can no longer be called a free country
If you’re told to quarantine in Australia, don’t expect officials to take your word that you’re staying home. Travelers who return to South Australia, one of the country’s six states, are being forced to download an intrusive app that uses facial recognition and geo-location to make sure you quarantine in your home.
Residents will be randomly contacted by the app to provide proof of their identity and location. They’ll have 15 minutes to respond, and if they don’t, or their location doesn’t match up with where they’re supposed to be, police will be at their doorstep.
"We don't tell them how often or when, on a random basis they have to reply within 15 minutes," Premier Steven Marshall said. Adding, chillingly, “I think every South Australian should feel pretty proud that we are the national pilot for the home-based quarantine app."1
Prison State Is Here: App Tracks Your Whereabouts
Right now, the app is part of a pilot program, with Australian officials testing just how far they can go to enforce their COVID-19 quarantine rules. Developed by tech firm Genvis Pty Ltd in 2020, the app is part of Genvis’ G2G suite of services, which were developed in partnership with the Western Australia Police Force.2
It started with the introduction of a QR code-based travel permit system that was used to manage travel restrictions that took effect March 2020. Since then, Genvis states on their website, it has “evolved into a comprehensive platform that powers much of Western Australia’s COVID response in support of the state’s elimination strategy.”3
This includes a G2G Pass, a “border management solution” that manages all travel into Western Australia, along with its G2G Now app, which they say has “helped more than 95,000 people quarantine at home in W.A. since September 2020.” As for how it works, Genvis states:4
“The app uses facial recognition to confirm the identity of people in quarantine and location services to verify their location. A full-scale quarantine management solution, G2G Now saves significant police resources and is an Australian first.”
In addition to “border management” and “quarantine management,” Genvis and the Western Australia Police Force seem to have a solution for all of their prison state needs, including:5
* COVID test registrations
* Real-time app-based reporting
* Exposed worker declarations
The oppressive G2G suite of products is being used not only by the Western Australia Police Force but also by the Northern Territory government and the Tasmanian government.6
Selfies Required to ‘Keep Communities Safe’
When prompted by the app, users must snap a selfie within the 15-minute timeframe, at their specified home quarantine address, lest police come knocking on their door. This is all to “keep communities safe,” Kirstin Butcher, Genvis chief executive, told Reuters. “You can't have home quarantine without compliance checks … You can't perform physical compliance checks at the scale needed to support (social and economic) reopening plans so technology has to be used."7
The move is being pitched as an improvement to the requirement that all international arrivals spend two weeks quarantining at a hotel under police watch, but confining a person to their home who has not committed a crime, and monitoring them with the threat of police force, is not something typically done in a free society.
“While the recognition technology has been used in countries like China, no other democracy has been reported as considering its use in connection with coronavirus containment procedures,” Reuters reported.8 However, this could easily change and could quickly morph into an app to monitor your whereabouts for all types of purposes.
It’s already starting. September 17, 2021, President Biden added measles to the list of quarantinable communicable diseases, meaning if you’ve been exposed, you could be required to quarantine.9 What other diseases will be added to the list, and what measures approved to enforce Americans remaining in their homes?
One of Genvis’ other projects is Milli, a “home safety smartphone app,” also built in collaboration with the Western Australia Police Force, that “analyses live home security camera feeds detecting people and vehicles.” If an “event” happens, an alert is sent to a user’s smartphone so they can “quickly review the information and take action if necessary.”10
The Milli app is in use in Western Australia, reportedly as a tool to reduce family and domestic violence. But it’s not hard to see how this invasive technology could easily be used for other types of monitoring and surveillance, with extreme violations to privacy. Many have voiced concerns over Genvis’ products, including the G2G Now app.
"I'm troubled not just by the use here but by the fact this is an example of the creeping use of this sort of technology in our lives," Toby Walsh, a professor of Artificial Intelligence at University of NSW, told Reuters. "Even if it works here ... then it validates the idea that facial recognition is a good thing. Where does it end?"11
When Is Australia no Longer Free?
Australia has faced some of the tightest restrictions during the pandemic, and people are growing weary of having their personal liberty taken away in the name of safety. When a curfew was announced in the state of Victoria, scholar John Lee was asked if he thought it went too far, to which he responded, “To put this in context, federal and state parliaments sat during both world wars and the Spanish Flu, and curfews have never been imposed.”12
In New South Wales, the military has been used to enforce lockdowns, which have persisted for months, and when protests occurred, people were fined and arrested. Writing in The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf explained that Australia appears to have entered a police state and questions at what point it can no longer be called a free country:13
“Australia is undoubtedly a democracy, with multiple political parties, regular elections, and the peaceful transfer of power.
But if a country indefinitely forbids its own citizens from leaving its borders, strands tens of thousands of its citizens abroad, puts strict rules on intrastate travel, prohibits citizens from leaving home without an excuse from an official government list, mandates masks even when people are outdoors and socially distanced, deploys the military to enforce those rules, bans protest, and arrests and fines dissenters, is that country still a liberal democracy?
Enduring rules of that sort would certainly render a country a police state. In year two of the pandemic, with COVID-19 now thought to be endemic, rather than a temporary emergency the nation could avoid, how much time must pass before we must regard Australia as illiberal and unfree?”
People Are Protesting the Orwellian Policies
In Melbourne, people took to the streets in protest after being locked down in their homes for more than 220 days. In addition to schools and businesses being closed, residents have been subjected to curfews and confined to their homes for all but essential travel and exercise.
The protestors were met with police forces responding as though they were at war; protesting has also been outlawed, with dissenters risking arrest and fines of $5,000 or more.14