Public input sought to inform privacy rules for biometrics

New Zealanders are being encouraged to have their say on the use of biometric information by Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner this month launched its consultation paper, Privacy Regulation of Biometrics in Aotearoa New Zealand, and will be seeking public feedback until 30 September 2022.

Webster says in a statement that biometric technologies can have major benefits, including convenience, efficiency and security, “but they can also create significant risks, including risks relating to surveillance and profiling, lack of transparency and control, and accuracy, bias and discrimination”.

Webster says the consultation aimed to hear from New Zealanders amid growing concern over this issue, such as examples of stores using Facial Recognition Technology as part of their CCTV systems.

“Our biometric information is uniquely sensitive to each of us. It’s the biological and behavioural details that make us who we are – it can include our facial details, voice, fingerprints or even how we walk.

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

Submissions will help inform the potential drafting of further guidance or rules, enabling organisations to innovate and benefit from emerging technologies while protecting people from harm under the Privacy Act.

The statement says the consultation document features a set of specific questions for people to answer aimed at building on information first presented in an OPC position paper on biometrics released last year.

“Different cultures can also hold different beliefs. We are looking forward to learning more from within te ao Māori, for example, about protections for tangata whenua,” Webster says.

After analysing all feedback, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner will aim to share its findings and proposed regulatory approach by the end of this year. This will be the first of a series of consultations on privacy-related issues over the next year.


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