Otago Daily Times

Face recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy deal has wide ac­cess

- PHIL PEN­NING­TON Tech · Tech Trends · Wellington, New Zealand · New Zealand · DXC Technology · NEC · Facial Recognition · New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs · Tysons Corner

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

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