Our two degrees of separation in New Zealand is eerie. In Otago, you’ll still recognize your primary school classmates decades later. Over a lifetime, a person’s experiences can change them, yet their essential facial characteristics, fingerprints, and movement will remain the same.
Biometrics uses biological or behavioral traits to identify people. Biometric systems can use a person’s face, fingerprints, eyes, voice, gait, or scent. Three main uses follow.
Verification entails checking a person’s identification.
Who is this person? is identification.
Categorization, or profiling, uses biometrics to determine a person’s type.
If you’re reading this on your phone, you probably unlocked it using your face or fingerprint, which may seem futuristic. If so, you’re one of a rising number of biometric users.
Biometrics offer convenience, efficiency, and security. It also poses dangers of monitoring, profiling, lack of transparency, control, and accuracy, prejudice, and discrimination.
Should shops employ face recognition to track aggressive consumers or shoplifters? Can your employer need thumbprints to clock in and out? New Zealand and other privacy regulators are considering biometric data collection and usage.
The Technology-neutral Privacy Act 2020 encompasses biometrics. However, technologies like face recognition technology have such a huge influence on individuals and their privacy that we’re also researching a distinct biometrics law to specifically address privacy rights and biometrics. Biometrics are riskier than licenses or ID cards since they can’t be revoked or reissued.
Complex considerations may help us adapt to the future while protecting privacy. My team listens to Māori data sovereignty advocates who are concerned about the effects of facial recognition technology on Māori, considers a 2020 Law Foundation report that called for greater regulation, and connects with international colleagues who are also concerned about how sensitive information is captured, used, and stored.
Many of us know families with such a close likeness that siblings may use their faces to unlock one other’s phones, so you can see where the challenges and gray areas may lie. Facial recognition software can still make mistakes.
I want to make sure New Zealanders and companies can benefit from biometrics while being safe.
I believe we must welcome technology, but we must also investigate, think, and prepare to keep people safe and safeguard their privacy.