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Discrimination concerns arise as NZ police expand biometric data use

Discrimination concerns arise as NZ police expand biometric data use

Incorporating biometric data into policing raises concerns of bias and discrimination, particularly against Māori and Pasifika populations, a Māori technology and data ethicist told RNZ.

New Zealand Police recently initiated an upgrade to their automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS) and biometric recording devices, aiming to modernize and enhance their capabilities in crime investigation and evidence collection.

The tender, which opened on Monday, April 8, 2024, and closed on Friday, May 10, 2024, attracted attention with its scope. Referred to as a Request for Information (Market research) (RFI), the project encompasses the integration of an advanced AFIS with integrated livescan biometric data capture technology. This includes a ten-print finger and palmprint recording system, both fixed and portable, along with a custody photography capture system.

New Zealand police are seeking a solution that facilitates the capture and transmission of latent evidence fingerprints, palmprints, and footprints directly from the field. This includes a requirement for approximately 50 fixed biometric data recording devices to be installed across 40 police stations nationwide. Additionally, around 130 portable biometric recording devices are earmarked for nationwide deployment, enabling agile operations for law enforcement personnel.

The technological specifications for these systems include an archive-style data storage and retrieval system capable of handling images at a resolution standard of 1000dpi. Moreover, all biometric data must conform to the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) file format for each modality.

Amidst the technological advancements shaping law enforcement practices, the use of biometric data has emerged as a contentious issue. Recent findings from a biennial privacy survey of New Zealanders reveal a notable shift in public sentiment, with a majority of New Zealanders voicing heightened unease over the collection and utilization of their personal data.

According to a survey, the percentage of individuals expressing being “more concerned” about privacy issues has surged to 55 percent, marking a substantial 14 percent increase from just two years prior. This uptick underscores a growing awareness and wariness regarding the potential risks posed by pervasive data practices.

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