The Dilemma of Digital Colonialism unmasking facial recognition technology and data sovereignty in Aotearoa New Zealand


  • Alex Morris Waitangi Tribunal



Facial recognition technology, Māori data sovereignty, Surveillance, Data colonialism, Emerging technologies, Law enforcement


Law enforcement agencies have become increasingly reliant upon facial recognition technology (FRT) as a powerful surveillance tool in the fight against crime. Developing at an unprecedented rate, FRT has exceeded the incremental pace of law and policy. This has resulted in unregulated over-surveillance, triggering questions about police misconduct and ethnic discrimination. In Aotearoa New Zealand, targeted surveillance and the emergence of FRT have reignited concerns over inherent colonialist practices, dismissive of obligations to te Tiriti o Waitangi and Māori rights. They have also provided for a new wave of discussion on how future policy might incorporate Māori data sovereignty. While a highly valuable policing tool, its lack of regulation, technological accuracy and potential racial bias have led some countries, including Aotearoa New Zealand, to impose a moratorium on FRT use in law enforcement. Policymakers must now look at how to dismantle what is fast becoming an age of digital colonialism.


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Author Biography

Alex Morris, Waitangi Tribunal

Alex Morris is a researcher/analyst at the Waitangi Tribunal.