New Zealand and Australia begin fingerprint immigration checks
16 August 2010
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has begun fingerprint checks with Australia as part of a biometric programme to strengthen border security and prevent identity fraud.
The programme will expand to include checks with the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States under the umbrella of the Five Country Conference (FCC), which has developed a system for securely – and with substantial privacy safeguards - matching fingerprint biometrics of persons of interest. Fingerprints of FCC citizens will not be shared.
The system will help INZ combat fraud and strengthen border security by helping identify, early in the immigration process, people with criminal histories or those using false identities.
“Organised crime groups and illegal migrants are increasingly using identity and passport fraud to evade detection,” says Arron Baker, INZ’s Programme Manager for Identity and Biometrics.
“Biometrics uses technology to improve on traditional checks using names to detect and prevent these people from entering New Zealand. It is a fast, effective and privacy protecting way of quickly facilitating genuine clients while filtering out those who pose risks to New Zealand.”
INZ signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship on 30 June 2010, and is now completing similar agreements with the UK, Canada and the US.
The Department of Labour completed a Privacy Impact Assessment of the system in close consultation with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. This is available to the public at http://www.immigration.govt.nz.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Q1. What is the Five Country Conference?
The Five Country Conference (‘FCC’) is a forum for immigration and border security – involving Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom (U.K), the United States (U.S) and New Zealand.
Q2. What is biometric identification?
A. Biometric identification is the confirmation of people’s identity by comparing unique physical features such as fingerprints, photograph, iris scan, etc. with a previously obtained image.
Q3. How do you know the exchange with foreign countries will be secure?
A. The Five Country Conference has developed a system which ensures the information exchange is very secure. The system has been subject to rigorous security accreditation by each country. Also, information shared may only be supplied in accordance with the member’s immigration and privacy laws, as well as international arrangements signed by the parties.
Q4. Will you be sharing any biometrics of Five Country Conference national citizens?
A. No. Fingerprints of citizens of the FCC will not be shared as part of these identity checks. The only time FCC citizens information may be relevant is if someone conceals their true identify as an FCC citizen when dealing with an FCC immigration agency.
Q5. FCC data sharing will involve the exchange of both biometric and biographic data. What kind of biographic data will be shared?
A. There is no biographic information (names, birthdates etc) shared when an identity is checked. Only the fingerprint data is provided to make a check. Privacy experts regard this approach as an innovative way to protect people’s identity. Only when a fingerprint match is made will biographic data be exchanged to confirm if identity fraud has occurred.
Q6. How do you know there will not be security breaches to the data sharing system?
A. Security of data and privacy are of paramount importance to all countries in the FCC. All data exchanged is very strongly encrypted. Thorough security assessments of the system have been completed by a number of government security experts and agencies.
Q7. Under these information sharing arrangements, will the FCC countries be able to remove or deport individuals who have committed an immigration or criminal offence?
A. Yes. Information that is shared under the exchange programme can support prosecution and/or deportation of individuals. It will also be used to prevent the entry of known persons of concern — including those who have committed an immigration or criminal offence.