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New Zealand updates biometric checks to fight visa fraud

New Zealand updates biometric checks to fight visa fraud

New Zealand’s immigration department is changing the way it conducts biometric checks to crack down on fraudulent applications, according to Radio New Zealand.

Dubbed the biometric capability update (BCU), the overhaul will employ biometric data to identify fraud more efficiently and is designed to reduce manual interventions.

“The biometric capability update project will deliver a significant upgrade to the department’s existing biometrics management, capture and matching solution,” said Richard Owen, general manager of verification and compliance for Immigration New Zealand (INZ), adding that “the solution ensures that the person presenting at the border and/or applying to enter is who they claim to be.”

INZ was careful to point out that “the vast majority of people who come to New Zealand to live, work and play have good intentions.” On its site, the agency states that immigration fraud displaces “genuine immigrants” and raises costs. It also specifies that INZ already collects and stories biometric data in the form of fingerprints and face photos, and, in certain circumstances, DNA sampling.

New Zealand is a signatory to the Five Country Conference (FCC), an international agreement on the exchange of biometric data for immigration purposes. It also has been signed by Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

As is often the case, the increased focus on biometrics has drawn scrutiny from privacy advocates. For the BCU, INZ conducted its own privacy impact assessment following a previous assessment of INZ’s identity management system conducted by the privacy commissioner.

Late last year, Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster made public his interest in establishing a formal code of practice for biometrics.

“The use of biometrics is growing and diversifying,” he wrote in a statement, following the publication of a formal position paper. “We want to ensure New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses can harness the benefits of this technology, but also be protected from potential harm.”

The paper outlines function-creep, lack of transparency and surveillance and profiling as potential risks of biometric data collection, and places particular emphasis on the danger of bias against New Zealand’s indigenous Maori population.

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