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Automatic Facial Recognition Technology – Legal and Ethical Issues

The use of automated facial recognition technology (FRT) is becoming commonplace globally and in New Zealand. It involves identification of an individual based on an analysis of his or her geometric facial features, and a comparison between the algorithm created from the captured image and one already stored. The ability to identify and intercept an individual through automated crosschecking of images could be of immense value in the investigation of crime, counter-terrorism, and immigration. FRT offers accuracy, speed and convenience in identity management in the commerce, travel and security contexts. However, there are critical implications for the right to privacy and the right to be free from discrimination, and its use can compound existing biases. It is unlike other biometrics, such as DNA and fingerprints, in that facial images can be collected at a distance—and their collection, use, and storage is not specifically covered by legislation in New Zealand.

Given the potential for FRT to be used as a key identity and access management tool in the future, there are pertinent questions around how images are being collected and stored now by the private sector. Where are these images being stored? Who has access to this data? What else might the images be used for?

Our expert panel will give international context to these issues and the implications for New Zealand.


  • Associate Professor Nessa Lynch, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington


  • Rachel Dixon, Privacy and Data Protection Deputy Commissioner at the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner
  • Clare Garvie, Senior Associate, Center on Privacy and Technology, Georgetown Law
  • Professor Liz Campbell, Faculty of Law, Monash University, Australia
  • Dr Joe Purshouse, School of Law, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom


Oct 17
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm