Facial recognition technology in New Zealand

Towards an ethical and legal framework
CCTV Machine learning Online privacy Artificial Intelligence (AI) Digital identity Privacy Human rights New Zealand

The research shows that Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) is increasing in usage in Aotearoa and comparable countries. It is used across sectors including government departments, policing, banking, travel, security, and customer tracking. According to co-author Associate Professor Lynch, if this regulation gap isn't plugged soon, the impacts on human rights - such as privacy, freedom of expression, the right to peaceful protest, and the right to be free from discrimination - are potentially extensive.

This report involved a stocktake of the use of FRT in New Zealand and in comparable countries, with a focus on use by the state. The spectrum of impact ranges from low-impact uses such as verification at the border, to high-impact activities like live automatic facial recognition from CCTV feeds and controversial apps such as Clearview AI, which is used in policing in other countries and has been trialled in this country.


The authors ask there to be an immediate moratorium on live automatic facial recognition by police, due to its impact on individual and societal rights. They also ask for additional oversight of police access to driving licence and passport databases, while a range of recommendations are taken into account. Their comprehensive range of recommendations includes giving biometric information - such as DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, and facial data - special protection and implementing high-quality privacy impact assessments and algorithm impact assessments. They also recommend the government establish independent oversight of the collection, retention, and comparison of facial images. The authors want to see transparency around the sharing of facial images between state agencies, other jurisdictions, and the private sector.

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