Customs defends face recognition trial

The New Zealand Customs Service is defending its interest in face recognition software after the technology has come under fire for underperforming.

The New Zealand Customs Service is defending its interest in face recognition software after the technology has come under fire for underperforming.

Customs' chief financial officer John Kyne says the organisation is simply trialling the software and has no plans to roll out any service in the foreseeable future.

"We've got an open mind as to its capability and where it might fit in. I think over time there will be a biometric application, including face recognition, but it is fair to say it is relatively new technology."

In Australia questions are being raised about the Australian Customs Service's expectations of its face recognition software trial.

IT security consultant Dr Roger Clarke told The Australian newspaper that facial recognition was an "atrociously bad technology" and that the government was fooling itself if it thought face-recognition software would work in such an environment.

"It has no chance of working across large populations, especially where you don't have very tight control over the capture of the reference measure, and where anybody that you are trying to catch out has a strong interest in avoiding being caught out."

But Kyne isn't alarmed by such comments.

"That's exactly why we want to test the technology. It seems to be getting better over time. It's probably not at a level we would like it to be but the trend over time is to a higher level of accuracy."

Kyne says his department is working with the Australians on the project in order to better understand the technology.

"As we speak we have two of my colleagues in Australia being briefed and seeing what's happening with the Australian experience. We're working very closely with our counterparts in Australia."

As reported in Computerworld last year (see Customs faces up to new border technology and Agencies eye Customs biometric trial) New Zealand Customs is using face-recognition software from US company Imagis. Whether any final product uses technology from that company or another is yet to be decided.

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