The human face is special. It is simultaneously public and personal. Our faces reveal sensitive information about us: who we are, of course, but also our gender, emotions, health status, and more.

Lawmakers in Australia, like those around the world, never anticipated our face data would be harvested on an industrial scale, then used in everything from our smartphones to police CCTV cameras. So we shouldn’t be surprised that our laws have not kept pace with the extraordinary rise of facial recognition technology.

But what kind of laws do we need? The technology can be used for both good and ill, so neither banning it nor the current free-for-all seem ideal.

However, regulatory failure has left our community vulnerable to harmful uses of facial recognition. To fill the legal gap, we propose a “model law”: an outline of legislation that governments around Australia could adopt or adapt to regulate risky uses of facial recognition while allowing safe ones.