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Digital Identity New Zealand

Biometrics… ‘Perfect is the enemy of good?’ | February 2024 Newsletter

Kia ora e te whānau

Biometrics hit the news again earlier this month. TV1’s 7 Sharp and 1News together with RNZ newsonline and several printmedia carried the story of Foodstuffs North Island’s trial of Facial Recognition in 25 of its stores to see if it reduces retail crime. In addition, Māori, Pasifika and People of colour have concerns of bias. Naturally the Office of Privacy Commissioner (OPC) is closely monitoring the trial. I have no special insight but from the links above I deduce that the trial stores run their CCTV feed through facial image matching software set at a high 90% threshold, matching it against that particular store’s database of known and convicted offenders. If a possible match is made, specially trained ‘super recognisers’ visually inspect both enrolled and detected images which in itself should eliminate racial bias while the rest of the feed is deleted.

Permanent deletion being not straightforward and the ‘no sharing’ rule between stores are matters that OPC likely monitors along with the trial’s effectiveness of reducing retail crime. While emerging anecdotal evidence overseas suggests its effectiveness, direct comparative research is needed.

CCTV and facial recognition are widely used for crime detection in public places, we are all using facial recognition every day on our phones, when we cross the border using Smart Gate, or when we use a browser on our PC, so you might ask why all the fuss? 

There are large notices in-store, it’s private property and people can choose to shop elsewhere. The additional use of image software in stores improves matching processes traditionally done by humans, albeit with potential human error. FR software and camera quality continuously improves while human-based matching has limitations. Perfection is challenging, but by combining human and technological efforts we can improve outcomes.

Foodstuffs North Island’s adherence to its rules raises the question of whether striving for perfection impedes progress. DINZ’s Biometrics Special Interest Group reflects on differing community views, agrees with the Deputy Police Commissioner on the need for an open discussion and emphasises the need for education on the technology’s workings and potential benefits when implemented correctly.

Help us provide much needed education and understanding in this domain.

Ngā mihi nui

Colin Wallis

DINZ Executive Director

Read the full news here: Biometrics… ‘Perfect is the enemy of good?’ | February 2024 Newsletter

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