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Kiwis Asked To Have Their Say On New Draft Rules For Using Biometrics

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has developed draft rules for the use of biometric technologies and is now asking what people think of those.

Biometrics is the automated processing of physical and behavioural characteristics (face scans, fingerprint scans, voice recordings) that can be used to identify individuals or work out things about them.

New Zealand doesn’t currently have special rules for biometric technologies.

Privacy Commissioner Michael Webster says, "The Privacy Act 2020 regulates the use of personal information in New Zealand (and therefore biometrics), but we think biometrics need special protections especially in specific circumstances.

"Biometrics are fundamental to who a person is; they’re a very special type of personal information," says Mr Webster.

"Biometrics can be used to surveil and monitor large numbers of people or identify people on a watchlist and some of their uses are so highly intrusive that they shouldn’t be used lightly.

"In addition, they can be used for activities like predicting your emotions, monitoring your reactions, inferring your health status, or categorising you," says Mr Webster.

"My Office has drafted additional rules that New Zealand organisations would need to follow if they were using biometric technologies and we’re keen to know whether New Zealanders agree with what we’ve drafted."

The full exposure draft of a biometrics code and a consultation document can be found at It asks people to consider questions like,

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- How should agencies have to demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the risks of biometrics before using them? (proportionality)

- How and what should people be told when their biometrics is being collected? (transparency)

- What are some things that biometrics should not be used for? (limitations)

Biometrics can have major benefits, including convenience, efficiency, and security. However, it can also create significant risks, including risks relating to surveillance and profiling, lack of transparency and control, and accuracy, bias, and discrimination.

People will likely be familiar with some aspects of biometric technology, like using face scans to open their phones.

"The use of biometrics is growing and diversifying, and I want to ensure New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses that they can harness the benefits of this technology, but also be protected from potential harm," says Mr Webster.

"We need to embrace technological advancement, but its vitally important to me that we also do the research, thinking, and planning that keeps people safe and protects their right to privacy."

People can have their say on the exposure draft of a biometrics code between 10 April and 8 May 2024 by emailing They can say a little or a lot, and don’t have to be a New Zealand resident to have their say.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has been working on biometrics for some time now; it is complex and benefits from hearing a wide range of feedback.

NOTE: web pages mentioned will be live at 9am Wednesday 10 April too.

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