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New Zealanders have a big plan for public facial recognition

New Zealanders have a big plan for public facial recognition

A New Zealand nonprofit has published what might be the most detailed argument for regulation of face biometrics used by government. The group proposes a full 15 recommendations, each spelled out with hows and whys.

The New Zealand Law Foundation suggests that facial recognition be seen for what it is — an unprecedented new category of government tool. Piecemeal policy approaches assume that only aspects of the technology are new and have unknowable implications.

The group’s document acknowledges that facial recognition is a valuable tool for multiple public roles, but it finds that too little effort is being made in the far south Pacific island nation to protect human rights being trampled as systems are switched on.

The Law Foundation’s report analyzes the public use of face biometrics by comparing it to that nation’s human rights framework and that of the international community. The authors leave little undefined, including a brief discussion on the source of human rights relevant to face scanning.

System benefits get the same exhaustive (compared to other national and international statements of concern) treatment.

The report points to worthy uses around the world including locating missing children; port, military and retail security; identity verification in banking; spotting casino cheats; and even animal conservation and livestock identification.

It also defines roles whose virtues are intensely debated such as attendance-taking in school and smart city projects.

Many of the 15 recommendations already are part of other legislation and discussions globally.

People need to have greater control over their personal data, for instance. Greater oversight of photo databases is required. A moratorium is needed for automated facial recognition by police. And government must make system use, policies and procedures transparent.

There also are new points to be made in the report, too.

New Zealand lawmakers in July created the Algorithm Charter in the Statistics Ministry to build confidence by people that government is using their data safely and effectively. The new report argues that, while innovative, the charter lacks teeth and oversight.

And a code of practice should be created for biometric information, according to the Law Foundation.

The report concludes with what might be, among the several partial efforts being promoted globally, the most bald statement of responsibility regarding the technology.

“We place the burden firmly on those who want to use [facial recognition technology] to demonstrate not only its utility as a surveillance tool, but also due appreciation of its broader social impact.”

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