The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has recently published a report outlining their position on biometrics.

Biometrics or biometric information is fully or partially automated information about a person’s biological or behavioural characteristics, such as fingerprints, a person’s face or their voice. Biometrics are used to automatically identify a person based on those characteristics.

Biometrics are used in New Zealand for many reasons, including verifying identities online and border control. Biometric information is particularly sensitive and needs careful protection to comply with New Zealand’s privacy standards.

There are many benefits to biometrics, such as efficiency and convenience for individuals that need to have their identity verified. However, there are also increased risks when dealing with such sensitive information. For example, there are risks of false matches and non-matches, as well as the risks that biometric recognition is more accurate for some groups than others.

Privacy surrounding biometrics is currently regulated by the Privacy Act, as it is personal information. The Office invited submissions from people in New Zealand to have their say about the law surrounding biometrics, and invited ideas about how to mitigate the risks.

The Office received around 100 submissions, including from key groups such as Māori experts and organisations that use biometric information.

The Office has announced that they will be exploring a Code of Practice to regulate the use of biometric information. The Code would act as a guide for users of biometrics, and help to provide people with certainty regarding the safety of their private information.

Every person in New Zealand is entitled to certain privacy rights. If you are confused about your rights or believe that they have been breached, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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