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This would push New Zealand into new territory for tracking citizens.

It will be run by a non-police contractor – US firm Dataworks Plus – and collect 15,000 facial images a year, with that expected to expand up to 10-fold.

Some of this information is contained in an Official Information Act (OIA) response police provided to Stuff last year, but tried to withhold from RNZ last week, until a complaint was made to the Ombudsman.

RNZ made inquiries with other agencies after revealing that the Internal Affairs Department has been – quietly, too – setting up a $20m passport processing system.

Both the department, and the police, are using some of the world’s most powerful facial recognition software, NeoFace, developed by NEC, a Japanese company with $44 billion in revenue a year.

Both said they did not tell the public as these are mere upgrades, and neither did a Privacy Impact Assessment – though Internal Affairs told the Privacy Commissioner about NeoFace, while the police did not.

Reports – parliamentary annual reviews – show since 2014 the police have spent more than $9m on an Automated Biometric Information System (ABIS), in two phases.

ABIS 2 will go live later this year, run by Dataworks Plus, or South Carolina, which supplies facial recognition to a lot of US police departments.


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