Canadian Gov’t Seeks to Expand Biometric Screening

Canadian Gov't Seeks to Expand Biometric ScreeningThe Canadian government is seeking to expand the collection of visitors’ biometric data, and it’s raising some concerns about privacy. The changes have been introduced into a new omnibus budget bill.

The government already takes face and fingerprint data for visitors from a number of countries. It also uses ePassports, has employed facial recognition technology for several years, and uses iris recognition technology in the NEXUS border control program. The new expansion of biometric collection is vague, suggesting that individuals applying to visit the country could be required to provide further biometric data of some kind.

The lack of clarity has prompted groups such as Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the Canadian Bar Association, and Foreign Affairs to raise concerns about scope. The CBA, for example, has penned a letter to Parliament asking for “a specific and limited purpose” to be delineated for the changes. And, it being an election year in Canada, multiple politicians have decried the proposed changes as well.

That’s not to say such concerns aren’t serious; nor are they limited to Canada. Australia has been undergoing a similar debate about its own biometric collection programs for border security, and debates have raged in the UK on other state-led deployments of biometric identification technologies. Given such systems’ utility in security, however, government agencies are unlikely to shy away from pursuing them and will instead seek a compromise with privacy and civil rights advocates.

Source: CBC News

June 4, 2015 – by Alex Perala