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National: Privacy commissioner asks the public for opinions on facial recognition technology

8:33 am on Tuesday 16 August 2022

By David Liwei Shi

Privacy commissioner Michael Webster is asking the general public for their opinions on the use of biometric technology, including facial recognition in Aotearoa. 

Biometric technology involves the automatic recognition of people based on their biological or behavioural features. This could include analysing people’s faces, fingerprints, voices, odours, or the way they walk.

Biometrics can be used to verify people’s identities online, for security, border control, policing and law, and monitoring attendance in workplaces or schools.

Webster acknowledged in a statement that there has been concern from the public about facial recognition and how it can violate privacy. 

"Biotechnology can create risks such as profiling, lack of transparency, control, accuracy, and discrimination." 

Webster says the public consultation will help inform the potential drafting of further legislation to protect people from harm while allowing organisations to innovate and benefit from emerging technologies. 

“Technology and privacy don’t need to be mutually exclusive, but organisations using biometrics do need to have appropriate safeguards and protocols.”

The office of the privacy commissioner has said they will also consult with Māori experts and organisations using biometric information about the protection of Tangata Whenua. 

Public submissions are open until Friday 30 September 2022.

Public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air.