Otago Daily Times
Face recognition technology deal has wide access
WELLINGTON: The Government has done a deal over facial recognition technology that throws access to it wide open.
The Department of Internal Affairs has signed a master agreement with a leading global biometrics tech supplier that just about any organisation, public or private, can be allowed to join.
Documents released under the Official Information Act show the master deal was signed with the New Zealand subsidiary of the $20 billionayear US giant DXC Technology.
The company is part of the Tysons food conglomerate.
The agreement was signed in December 2018, though it has taken until now for the department to get its new DXCmanaged system running.
The deal is farranging, instigated by Internal Affairs in mid2017, signed off by the minister, and means:
Many public agencies have automatic access, or local councils can opt in.
Other public agencies can ask to join.
Any private organisation can seek approval to join, from Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Other agencies that join the master deal will still have to pay DXC Technology to set up and manage a facial recognition system for them, but it removes the extra initial costs and demands for expertise in tendering and initial contracting.
DXC Technology also provides the system and upgrades to it, so agencies pay it for a service and do not face capital costs themselves.
The company uses the vastly powerful Neoface software from Japanese firm NEC — the same software as in the police’s new system — which is designed and marketed by NEC primarily for investigations and surveillance work.
The master deal encourages the proliferation of facial recognition but also allows agencies to sign up without the visibility of running a public tender.
‘‘The department chose [the] arrangement to enable any other interested agencies to procure facial recognition services without the need to incur the cost of going to market to secure similar services,’’ Internal Affairs general manager of operations Russell Burnard told RNZ in a statement.
So far no other agencies have signed up.
The aim to expand the use of biometrics for multiple uses by Crown agencies is clear in documents obtained under the Official Information Act from Internal Affairs, police and others.
‘‘The business outcome . . . is to deliver a fitforpurpose and supported facial recognition solution that will increase productivity, reduce cost and extend the capability across and beyond’’ the service delivery and operations branch, a privacy assessment of the DXC system by Internal Affairs said.
Police tender documents show they sought out a system that could be used to import driver licence and passport photos, and masses more facial images than at present, though police denied they would use their Dataworks PlusNEC system for that.
Biometrics includes facial recognition, fingerprints and iris scanning, image collection and identification. The latest feature to be analysed is individual walking style, in response to so many people wearing masks.
The new system will have more of each person’s biometric and biographic data in it. It does not change how or what information is collected, or how long it is held, which is 50 years. — RNZ