Q&A - emergent technology

Emergent Technology is an umbrella term covering ‘new technology’ capabilities such as customer support apps to more established technologies which allow images to be captured, such as CCTV. It also encompasses the use of tools such as algorithms and artificial intelligence.

General topics

What is the purpose of our commitment to Emergent Technology?

Police staff increasingly use new technology in their day-to-day work. This innovation is critical to delivering an effective police service that New Zealanders expect and deserve. Equally it is our duty to ensure that privacy, ethical, and human rights implications have been considered first. The way we police impacts every person in our community.


What is the policy?

The Emergent Technology Policy provides guidance for Police staff who are given opportunities to use or test new technology, and outlines the steps required before new technology can be trialled or introduced.  It also applies in situations where extra functionality is being added to an existing technology.

It acknowledges that Emergent Technologies can play an important role in modern policing. It also takes into account our duty to ensure privacy, security and ethical implications are carefully considered before such technologies are trialled or introduced.


Expert Panel

An Expert Panel has been set up to add another layer of consideration to Emergent Technologies.  Its primary role is to provide advice and oversight from an ethical and policy perspective of Emergent Technologies. While advice will be received and considered in confidence, Police is committed to making the Expert Panel’s advice public wherever possible - acknowledging this may not be possible in every case, for example where disclosure would breach commercial obligations.

Why did you establish the panel?

The creation of the panel is the next step, following the introduction of our test and trial policy, in ensuring we understand and assess potential technology and its implications before testing or adopting it.  The way we police impacts on every person in our community, so we must do our best to deliver a Police service New Zealanders quite rightly expect and deserve.


How was the Expert Panel selected?

We looked at the composition of broadly equivalent advisory bodies that already exist locally and offshore, then looked across New Zealand at who could bring the mix of skills, knowledge, and experience that would be beneficial to the expert panel.

We are very happy with the highly qualified group of individuals who make up the panel. The initial feedback we’ve had on the panel members has been uniformly positive.


Who is on the Expert Panel?

The panel is chaired by Professor Colin Gavaghan from Otago University, who is the Director of the Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies. The research centre is based at the University of Otago and examines legal, ethical, and policy issues around new technologies.

The members are:

  • Professor Colin Gavaghan (chair)
  • Kirikowhai Mikaere (Tūhourangi, Ngāti Whakaue – Te Arawa)
  • Dr Marion Oswald
  • Associate Professor Khylee Quince (Ngapuhi, Te Roroa, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungungu)
  • Professor Michael Macaulay
  • Professor Jennifer Brown

View the panel member biographies


How often will the panel meet?

The panel will meet on an ‘as needed’ basis. We anticipate that may mean potentially four times a year.


Why is there no industry representation on the panel?

That could be seen as a conflict of interest when considering Emergent Technologies. There is the ability to bring on ad hoc specialist panel members where the panel feels their combined experience doesn’t cover a particular area well enough.  



Facial Recognition Technology

Facial Recognition Technology is a topic that draws strong interest; therefore, Police is seeking information and advice from independent experts.  This will help ensure the safety and security of communities is at the forefront of our thinking and decision-making.

What research is being done around Facial Recognition Technology?

Leading experts and researchers on Facial Recognition Technology, Dr Nessa Lynch and Dr Andrew Chen will develop a report exploring the current and possible future uses of Facial Recognition Technology and what it means for policing in New Zealand communities.

The scope of their work will include:

  • defining Facial Recognition Technology
  • categorising the spectrum of use and its potential effect on individual and collective rights and interests
  • exploring what Police currently do in this space, and what planned and unused capability exists within the organisation
  • providing insights and evidence into international practice and operational advantages for public safety and crime control, as well as Treaty of Waitangi, ethics, privacy, and human rights implications
  • producing a paper with advice and recommendations on the safe and appropriate use of Facial Recognition Technology in New Zealand policing.


Why did Police choose the experts it has for this research?

Dr Lynch and Dr Chen are recognised as two of New Zealand’s leading experts and researchers on facial recognition technology.

  • Dr Nessa Lynch is an associate professor at the Faculty of Law at Victoria University of Wellington.  Her primary research interest is criminal law and the criminal justice system as it applies to children and young persons. Her secondary research area is in biometrics and state surveillance, particularly DNA and Facial Recognition Technology.
  • Dr Andrew Chen is a Research Fellow with Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures. He comes from a technical background with a PhD in Computer Systems Engineering from the University of Auckland. His PhD research focused on the use of camera-based person tracking, as well as how we might use technology to help protect the privacy of people.


Why has Police decided to research Facial Recognition Technology now?

As technology rapidly evolves, Police is committed to supporting the use of technologies that have tangible benefits for Police and the public.

Equally, we want to assure the public of our commitment to carefully weigh privacy, security, ethical, and human rights considerations before adding to our technology-enabled capabilities. Adopting and adapting to new technology enables Police to effectively support our mission of preventing crime and harm.

We welcome the opportunity to work alongside Dr Lynch and Dr Chen, and with their expert advice, hope to move Police’s technology capabilities forward, with public trust and safety as our priority.


Will Police publish the paper in full?

Police anticipates publishing the final paper once it has been reviewed internally, including by the newly established Expert Panel on Emergent Technologies.


Does this mean Police has plans to expand the use of Facial Recognition Technology?

Police is undertaking this research on Facial Recognition Technology to better understand its capabilities and risks.

New Zealand Police does not use any form of ‘live’ Facial Recognition Technology, such as real-time scanning of CCTV feeds and there are no current plans or proposals to do so.

Police does have software that allows static photos of unidentified suspects (such as an image captured at a crime scene) to be automatically matched against Police photo collections (such as known offenders).

Embedded Facial Recognitional Technology capabilities are becoming more common across a wide range of technologies that are not necessarily acquired for facial recognition purposes. Better understanding the issues associated with these technologies and their uses will help ensure informed debate, both about current technology and any future proposals.