Biometric identification systems in prisons, but no facial recognition – Fixes

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The prisons department has spent at least $ 800,000 on biometric identification systems since 2016, but admits it does not track spending closely.

Auckland South Correctional Center
Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

One system is used for all inmates, while two other systems are also used for visitors to two prisons – Auckland Prison in Paremoremo and Auckland South Correctional Center.

The Correctional Service has not used “any form of facial recognition in its prisons,” Correctional Service spokesperson Andrew Robertson said in response to an OIA request.

The OIA documents – released alongside its statement – indicated that Auckland Prison’s visitor-inmate identification system would keep photos of people and use them, along with their fingerprints, “for comparison. with the future entries of the individual “.

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RNZ asked Corrections to clarify how the biometric system stores photos, but does not support facial recognition.

Fingerprint recognition has been used “but it is made clear to all visitors upon arrival at a prison that it is not mandatory and that other forms of identification are available,” Robertson said in his communicated.

The Auckland Prison Tour System provided by Honeywell had no connection to any other network and was not accessible remotely, he said.

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A 2018 privacy impact assessment found this system to be “a low risk to privacy”.

The Correctional Service did not say whether such an assessment, in effect since 2015, had been carried out at a private company in Auckland South.

There, Serco holds the contract for the biometric system with the supplier SAAB.

The privacy impact assessment said visitors would receive a bracelet with a Q code on it.

“The Q code is a representation of their identifier but does not contain personal information.

“When people are unwilling to provide biometric information, a secondary accreditation process that allows staff to verify ‘face to photo’ is available.”

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Biometric data has been purged on fixed expiration dates.

The overall biometric system used for prisoners is provided by Biolink Solutions, which the Correctional Service paid $ 779,000 under a five-year contract that runs until July of next year.

However, with regard to total biometrics expenditure: “Corrections are unable to provide a reliable figure … as these costs are in many cases not identified separately from the cost of other services provided by providers that provide or support the deployment of this technology. “

It was fundamental that biometric data was handled in accordance with privacy laws, Roberston said.

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