After a six-month wait and intervention by the Ombudsman, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union can reveal the cost of a Police trial that scraped New Zealanders' details from social media. The since-abandoned — and until yesterday, secret — facial recognition software trial left taxpayers $727,000 out of pocket.
Taxpayers' Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “Police have spent the last 48 hours telling media that this trial was just a mistake and that so few people were aware of it that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner wasn't even consulted. In that case, how was so much allowed to be spent and who did sign off on it? Taxpayers are left wondering if money meant for fighting crooks was instead used to download law-abiding New Zealanders' Facebook photos."
“Putting aside the major civil liberties misjudgement by Police, it's incredible that such a large spend was approved without basic measures being taken. To add insult to injury, the Police tried to keep the spending secret. Police wanted everyone else's personal information but refused to be open themselves about how public funds were spent."
The Official Information Act response is available on the Taxpayers' Union website here.