Controversy trails facial recognition projects for New Zealand

Controversy trails facial recognition projects for New Zealand

A facial recognition project in New Zealand which seeks to make face biometrics available for public institutions and approved private organisations to deploy as well as another for police surveillance and real-time identification are both raising controversy, according to separate reports by New Zealand’s public service multimedia organisation RNZ.

The reports suggest that while data specialists are warning about the inability of one of the facial recognition deals to protect data sovereignty, the country’s Police Minister is also reported to have said his consent was not sought by the Police Department for the putting in place of the other system which is estimated at $9 million.

The deal for the face biometrics system was signed between the Department of Internal Affairs and the local subsidiary of United States-based company DXC Technology. The platform is running Neoface biometric software from NEC.

About the reported weakness of the deal, a data sovereignty group, Te Mana Raraunga, is quoted as urging authorities to carry out a thorough privacy impact assessment before the system can be fully put into use.

“The proposed contractual controls and ability to audit DXC Technology’s subsidiary are insufficient to adequately mitigate the risks that this platform poses to the people of Aotearoa and to Māori data sovereignty,” RNZ quoted the group as saying in a statement.

Although the government department says it carried out an assessment which makes it possible for certain high and medium risks to be handled, the data protection group insist that broader consultations have to be done so as to determine whether the deployment of the technology is acceptable and meets expectations for data privacy ethics.

About the other deal for police facial recognition, RNZ said it had been told by the Minister’s office that he had not been told about the deal since the beginning of 2019. The report also said there were no records that any approval for the project was sought either from the Minister or the Cabinet.

The recently-acquired police facial recognition system has the ability to capture live footage from CCTV cameras and identify people from them.

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