The New Zealand government has developed a biometric face matching system that could serve as the basis for online identity verification across a range of agencies and services in the country, according to a new report from RNZ.
The system has been built by Internal Affairs, and is designed to match faces against the country’s driver’s license database. Previously called “One Time Identity”, it has rebranded as “Identity Check”.
The Department of Internal Affairs began working on the program after a Cabinet committee directed the agency to find a “fundamentally different” approach to identity verification. Multiple options were considered, with the DIA searching for a way of using a broader array of identity attributes for verification.
According to RNZ, the Cabinet committee had anticipated the need for legislative changes in order to clear the way for the use of face-based identity verification, but Internal Affairs has now determined that there is no need for any such changes. That helps to explain why half a dozen government departments, including those of Health and Education, have become “early adopters” of Identity Check.
That having been said, there is still a need to conduct a privacy impact assessment, and a detailed business plan for the program is now seven months overdue.
The effort appears to be unrelated to legislation, proposed by the New Zealand government in late 2021, that was aimed at establishing a national digital identity program. That Digital identity Services Trust Framework Bill is now in the Second Reading phase, after which it is expected to proceed to a parliament reading.
The DIA’s Identity Check system is expected to go live in mid-2023. If the digital identity bill has passed by then, Identity Check could have an even more obvious and important role to play in New Zealand’s administration of e-services.
July 18, 2022 – by Alex Perala