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OAIC investigates the AFP over surveillance concerns

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is currently under investigation for its use of the Auror retail surveillance service, with concerns raised by the nation’s privacy watchdog.

user icon Daniel Croft
Mon, 24 Jul 2023
OAIC investigates the AFP over surveillance concerns
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This is following an investigation published by Crikey that found that over 100 of the AFP’s staff had been using Auror without a cyber security or privacy review, with most of those using it being based in Canberra.

Crikey reported that staff had been collecting information from retailers that had not been reported to the police. They had also been inputting their own information without any privacy regulations in place for its use.

Following this, the software, which is used by approximately 40 per cent of Australian businesses, including supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths, had its use halted by the AFP earlier in the week.

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The software is also used for vehicle tracking and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).

Auror’s privacy issues were first raised in a Senate estimate hearing earlier in the year, when Neil Gaughan, the head of ACT policing for the AFP, revealed that a privacy impact statement had not been conducted by the agency. Additionally, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) had not been notified about the use of Auror.

Now, the OAIC has said it has begun investigating the AFP’s use of Auror.

“The OAIC is continuing to gather information as part of its preliminary inquiries and will speak to a number of parties,” an OAIC spokesperson told Crikey.

Gaughan said this week that the ACT only uses the footage collected through Auror for review and does not inject its own data into the platform.

NSW has also defended its use of Auror, saying it follows strict privacy guidelines laid out in a commercial agreement with the surveillance service.

“NSW Police Force use Auror strictly for intelligence purposes to keep the community safe,” a spokesperson said.

“There are stringent guidelines around the use of this system.”

Victoria Police also commented, saying it had begun trialling the system itself and that all use had been supported by contacts and an assessment of privacy impact.

“The Victoria Police trial is supported by a related contract and a privacy and security impact assessment,” it said.

Auror, which describes itself as a “retail crime intelligence and loss prevention platform”, was first engaged by the AFP in 2021, with several locations in the ACT using it for ANPR.

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