What you need to know: Ministries toy with facial recognition

Analysis – Documents show that several government departments and agencies fought against the idea of ​​using controversial facial recognition technology. Here’s what you need to know.

Photo: 123RF

The basic facts (what we know):

In 2019, Internal Affairs began developing a facial recognition system called One Time Identity (OTI).

Technology can confirm a person’s identity using images – for example, from passport or driver’s license photos.

He bought the technology from other government departments and agencies.

Read the original story here

Documents show that in February this year, the Waka Kotahi Transportation Agency said there had been collaboration with the health and interior ministries on the matter.

He said the technology “has been successfully delivered to enable access to driver images for identity verification as part of the vaccine passport initiative.”

The Ministries of Social Development and Health deny having access to the photos or using the technology.

Read agency responses here

But we do know that the Ministry of Health has considered using the technology as part of the vaccination program.

And we know from internal documents that the Department of Social Development spent two years considering whether to use it to verify the identity of beneficiaries.

These government entities, which can have a huge impact on people’s lives, have actively considered using facial recognition technology or having another agency use it on their behalf.

The public didn’t know that.

Internal documents show that MSD officials, including its top privacy advisers and attorneys, have extensively reviewed the technology.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner also intervened.

Several government entities investigated and invested resources, talking at length about the potential use of the facial recognition system.

But they all say in the end that they didn’t – with the exception of Internal Affairs (see below) – and point out that if they do end up using it, it will only be after they have obtained everyone’s consent.

Meanwhile, the photo pool is growing

Home Affairs is part of a whole-of-government program to create a digital identity system and build public confidence in its use.

It uses OTI to search the passport photo database.

Waka Kotahi “has been commissioned” – the agency does not say by whom – to develop technology allowing Internal Affairs to also search driver’s license photos.

Waka Kotahi said in a statement to RNZ that more agencies would use the system if it was expanded this way.

This expansion was not solicited from the public, although it meant that more information about people would be fed into the system.

why is it important

The expanded use of facial recognition technology is already changing the way the state interacts with you and your information.

Biometric information is becoming more and more common to access the online world.

And access to public services is increasingly available only online (just try engaging with IRD now without using MyIRD).

Rules and laws also change via the Digital Identity Services Trust Framework Bill.

The select committee is a formal channel to hear people’s ideas and concerns about the new data framework bill, via the select committee – the debate on sharing biometrics (faces, fingerprints, irises) n didn’t reach the street or the water fountain.

The gain in confidence in technology has been valued at $1.5 billion in efficiency savings for New Zealand by the Minister for the Digital Economy.