Concern over govt plans for biometric dataSep 22nd, 2009 | By Innovya follow-up | Category: News | Print This Post
Published: 6:44PM Monday September 21, 2009
Source: ONE News
New technology designed to prevent identity fraud is sparking “big brother”-like concerns.
Legislation being debated in parliament will allow Immigration New Zealand to use biometric checking to stop those who are not who they claim they are from crossing borders illegally.
But there are fears these new powers will be extended to other arms of the state.
The shape of your face, the width of your nose, iris patterns, fingerprints, the way you walk, even the way you type are unique characteristics.
It is information governments around the world are keen to collect, says Michael Bott from the Council for Civil Liberties.
“The more information the state has about you, the more they can track your movements and control you. Knowledge is power,” he says.
From the end of 2009, New Zealanders and Australians with electronic passports will have the option of using SmartGate to get through customs quickly. Your image is checked against the biometric identity data chip in your e-passport.
“This technology will actually pinpoint multiple points on cheekbones, nose and eye and if the distance is fractionally out it will go ‘this is not the person’,” says Customs Minister Maurice Williamson.
Under new immigration legislation making its way through parliament on Tuesday, anyone arriving in New Zealand will be required to provide biometric data.
Immigration New Zealand says biometrics could have prevented a man allegedly linked to the September 11 attackers from crossing the border. He spent four months in New Zealand before being deported.
“We, along with every other country, have been the victim of identity fraud and identity crime,” says Immigration Identity Programme Manager Aaron Baker .
ONE News has been told New Zealand has joined Canada, Britain, Australia and the United States to work more closely on managing entry visas.
Three of those countries have agreed to share biometric information. New Zealand has not yet, but is likely to do so.
A report obtained by ONE News has highlighted some of the potential threats to privacy if biometric information is shared too widely.
The new legislation allows immigration to share data with other departments if a migrant or visitor applies for a taxpayer funded service like hospital treatment.
Privacy Commissioner Marie Schroff would like to see more details around how there will be protections around that information.
There are also concerns a law that allows one government agency to collect biometric data will allow others to follow.
Overseas, the technology is already used to check the identities of drivers, prison visitors and welfare beneficiaries.
Biometric technology is becoming more sophisticated. However, there are genuine fears that the rights of citizens to privacy will be left behind as technology advances.