Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Fingerprint data shared with US

Data provided to the US cannot be provided to a third party without the consent of New Zealand. Photo / Thinkstock
Data provided to the US cannot be provided to a third party without the consent of New Zealand. Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealand police will provide United States authorities with legal access to New Zealand's fingerprint database under an information-sharing agreement to combat crime and terrorism.

The US, similarly, will provide New Zealand access to its fingerprint database under specified conditions.

The agreement will also allow each country legal access to the other's DNA database, at a future stage.

It will also allow for automated access to the other's fingerprint and DNA databases in the future but the expectation is that New Zealand authorities will have to send individual requests to the US for data matching.

A certain amount of data sharing goes on already among law enforcement agencies, but not automated data-sharing.

The US is requiring formal agreements on information-sharing with the 36 countries it has visa-waiver arrangements with.

New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for the United States if they are visiting for tourism purposes. About 130,000 New Zealand residents visited the US in the past year.

The Herald understands the Agreement on Enhancing Co-operation in Preventing and Combating Crime will be tabled in Parliament today and will be referred to the foreign affairs and defence committee under the treaty ratification process.

It will be up to the committee to decide whether to invite submissions. The pact will then have to be passed into law to take effect.

The US agencies involved include the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

New Zealand agencies with the ability to seek US fingerprint data are the Police, Customs and the Immigration Service.

New Zealand ambassador to the United States Mike Moore signed the agreement in Washington in March with Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security Alan Bersin.

At the time Mr Moore said the agreement "will make it easier for us to prevent individuals with criminal records in the United States from seeking sanctuary in New Zealand".

The relevant New Zealand authority working on a specific case will be able to compare fingerprints to the United States database to see if it has a match and vice versa.

If either country does have a match, it will be able to share further information such as addresses, convictions, known associates and aliases.

If there is no match, no further information will be provided.

Data provided to the US cannot be provided to a third party without the consent of New Zealand.

Getting a match

* Fingerprints can be accessed for:
* Probes for crimes punishable by a year or more in jail
* Preventing serious threats to public security
* Proceedings related to criminal probes such as recovering money or property obtained through criminal activity
* Border security, visa, entry permission, refugee and protected person decision-making
* Any other purpose with prior consent of the party which transmitted the data.

- NZ Herald

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