Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The police, privacy, and public trust

At the moment, Parliament is debating giving the police a warrantless entry power for homes and marae to enforce gathering restrictions. Its obviously open to abuse - and we know similar powers for warrantless entry and search under the Misuse of Drugs Act are regularly abused - so it requires an incredible degree of trust in the police. Unfortunately, this morning they've shown us that they can't be trusted even on the basics:

Police conducted a trial of controversial facial recognition software without consulting their own bosses or the Privacy Commissioner.

The American firm Clearview AI's system, which is used by hundreds of police departments in the United States and several other countries, is effectively a search engine for faces - billing itself as a crime-fighting tool to identify perpetrators and victims.

New Zealand Police first contacted the firm in January, and later set up a trial of the software, according to documents RNZ obtained under the Official Information Act. However, the high tech crime unit handling the technology appears to have not sought the necessary clearance before using it.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards, who was not aware police had trialled Clearview Al when RNZ contacted him, said he would expect to be briefed on it before a trial was underway. He said Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told him he was also unaware of the trial.

So, they couldn't even tell their own superiors, let alone the appropriate oversight body, before hiring a white supremacist American company to "trial" an incredibly intrusive technology and illegally invade the privacy of who knows how many New Zealanders. And now they expect us to trust them with the power to kick in any of our doors, whenever they want, because "they heard a party" (or similar bullshit)? Yeah, right.