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New Zealand police upgrade facial recognition system for real-time CCTV biometric identification

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New Zealand police have been discreetly rolling out a biometric facial recognition system that uses real-time CCTV feeds to detect people, RNZ writes.

The department has reportedly spent some NZ$9 million (US$6 million) on the system provided by DataWorks Plus to capture 15,000 facial images per year in order to improve policing in the region. The number of images is likely to increase ten times, the publication notes. The facial recognition software is provided by NEC.

RNZ claims law enforcement tried to hide the project, despite the information appearing in an Official Information Act (OIA) response. The country’s Internal Affairs Department has also been rolling out a passport processing system run by DXC Technology that incorporates NEC’s NeoFace technology, for which the department paid NZ$20 million (US$13.5 million).

The two institutions claim the public was not informed because these are just system upgrades.

The Automated Biometric Information System (ABIS) run by DataWorks Plus is used by a number of police units in the U.S. NEC’s NeoFace is promoted as an all-in-one surveillance and identification platform that can “process 1,000 faces per minute in real time on live feeds.”

The New Zealand tender includes “ethnicity” as one of 31 fields of information the police have requested the new system must supply. The system also has to “import CCTV feed” for real-time identification purposes.

According to the Privacy Commissioner, “Any organization or business using facial recognition technology needs to undertake a high level of scrutiny over how accurate it is and how thoroughly it has been tested for use in New Zealand.”

The 2018 tender says ABIS may be used in the future to scan “passport photos, driver’s license photos, etc.” For other NeoFace searches, executive approval is mandatory. The tender does not mention if the data is kept in the country of abroad. Fire and Emergency, Victim Support, community patrols, and Neighborhood Support would have access to use ABIS.

New Zealand police have committed to better communication with the Privacy Commissioner and the public regarding the use of facial recognition.

The system was first set up in 2009 and the police already have 1.5 million images from 800,000 people. The Privacy Commissioner emphasizes the importance of asking user consent to collect biometrics.

Auckland police have access to over 3,000 transport cameras, on which they want to use facial recognition in the future.

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