Perth City council is setting up facial recognition cameras despite privacy concerns.

Dozens of new cameras will soon go live, giving authorities access to software that uses AI to recognise faces, count passing people and track movement.

Locals including the East Perth Community Safety Group say the facial recognition aspect came as new to them, and criticised the decision-making process for a lack of consultation.

Digital Rights Watch chair Tim Norton says the system may not help.

“There is no empirical evidence that supports the assertion that blanket surveillance is effective at preventing serious crime and terrorism either domestically or internationally,” Mr Norton said.

“Australians expect to be able to live their lives without being watched, monitored and tracked, but this is becoming increasingly difficult as more cities expand surveillance operations and place cameras in public spaces.”

Some have called it a bold move for a council that has been suspended since March 2018, and is being run by government-appointed commissioners.

Commissioner Gaye McMath says the community was adequately consulted.

“The City of Perth has been open and transparent regarding the trial of facial recognition in East Perth,” she said.

“Facial recognition will only be activated upon request from a lawful authority such as WA police, who need to provide the city with an image or series of images of a person of interest.

“There are many additional capabilities of the camera analytics [beyond facial recognition] including providing data around pedestrian numbers, vehicle types and counts, cyclist numbers which will assist planning and urban decision-making such as the placement of infrastructure or enhancing the development of transport solutions.”

The council says any data collected will be deleted after 30 days, but would not tell reporters how it will be stored or who has access to it.

The City of Darwin has faced similar allegations with regard to cameras installed as part of its recent upgrades, but it says it equipment does not have facial recognition capabilities.

Digital Rights Watch is pushing councils across the country to sign up to Cities for Digital Rights, a global coalition of city councils that pledge; “Privacy, freedom of expression and democracy must be incorporated by design into digital platforms starting with locally-controlled digital infrastructures and services”.

So far, Sydney is the only Australian city to sign up.