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New Zealand police make use of dozens of facial recognition tools discretely, audit reveals

New Zealand police make use of dozens of facial recognition tools discretely, audit reveals

An audit has shown that New Zealand’s police has more than a dozen facial recognition technology tools in its repertoire which it has been using without the knowledge of government authorities.

The tools have been used by the police to up its digital capabilities in detecting and investigating crime, among many other functions, NZ Herald reports.

Some of the tools include drones that can send live footage to patrols, a system to quickly spot suspects in CCTV feeds and a cellphone scourer which could be used with facial recognition systems, the report adds.

According to the report, the tools were revealed in a police stocktake made available under the Official Information Act after futile attempts to delete it.

Tools found in the stocktake include Cellebrite, which searches lawfully seized cell phones and extracts images which can be used for facial recognition, BriefCam, which spots faces or vehicle movement in CCTV footage hundreds of times faster than previously, NewX and other tools used to automatically identify number plates of vehicles as well as track crime related to child abuses. However, the Herald said there is little information about some of the tools discovered in the stocktake.

The report added that the stocktake was taken after information by exposed a former reporter of RNZ that the police had employed Clearview AI to fetch people’s biometric data from their social media accounts without government authorities, the country’s Privacy Commissioner or the public being aware.

The NZ Herald mentioned that some of the tools are used either for investigative or administrative purposes, and have been in use for a long time.

Although the stocktake suggested that the police should be more open on its dealings, a senior police official, Jevon McSkimming, is quoted as saying that new technologies are helping them effectively carrying out their work especially in handling crime and keeping citizens and their property safe. He added that some of the technologies they use are built with facial recognition capabilities, and they will continue considering their use, though he also said that the police do not use live facial recognition.

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