More high-tech sur­veil­lance com­ing at bor­ders

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Canada’s bor­der agency plans to com­pare im­ages of peo­ple ar­riv­ing in the coun­try with pho­to­graphs of sus­pects on watch­lists to keep out al­leged ter­ror­ists and other crim­i­nals.

The fed­eral pri­vacy watch­dog has cau­tioned the agency that the scheme could en­snare the wrong trav­ellers, re­sult­ing in un­war­ranted scru­tiny for some peo­ple at the bor­der.

The Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency wants to see how well the fa­cial-recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy works at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions and un­der spe­cific light­ing and crowd-move­ment con­di­tions. The bor­der agency’s sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing di­rec­torate has qui­etly been work­ing with the Univer­sity of Que­bec and other part­ners to gauge the abil­ity of devices to ex­tract needed in­for­ma­tion from video footage.

The ini­tia­tive is among the lat­est fed­eral ef­forts to use bio­met­ric tools that fo­cus on per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics — such as fin­ger­prints, an iris or the con­tours of one’s face — to iden­tify peo­ple in the name of se­cu­rity.

In his re­cently re­leased an­nual re­port, pri­vacy com­mis­sioner Daniel Ther­rien says his of­fice pro­vided ad­vice on the po­ten­tial pit­falls, in­clud­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of “false pos­i­tives” that could re­sult in un­nec­es­sary sec­ondary screen­ing for trav­ellers.

The of­fice also urged the bor­der agency to as­sess the risks of us­ing such tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing is­sues that might arise dur­ing test­ing phases.

The bor­der agency de­clined to make any­one avail­able to dis­cuss the pro­ject. In writ­ten an­swers, the agency said it con­tin­ues to work with the com­mis­sioner to “en­sure that pri­vacy im­pli­ca­tions are ap­pro­pri­ately ad­dressed.”

The agency also noted that while it plans to test the tech­nol­ogy in an “op­er­a­tional con­text,” no tri­als in­volv­ing ac­tual trav­ellers have yet taken place.

The sur­veil­lance tool could even­tu­ally be in place at bor­der points and in­ter­na­tional air­ports across Canada.

Pass­port Canada has been us­ing fa­cial recog­ni­tion for years to scru­ti­nize pho­tos and pre­vent the same per­son from hold­ing mul­ti­ple pass­ports un­der dif­fer­ent names. The pri­vacy com­mis­sioner has made sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions about the ini­tia­tive, say­ing all of the data in the sys­tem should be pro­tected through en­cryp­tion.

“We are not yet at the point where we can take pic­tures of peo­ple on the street with our smart­phones, iden­tify them, and gain ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion about them,” said a March 2013 re­port pub­lished by the com­mis­sioner’s of­fice.

“How­ever, this re­al­ity may not be too far off and we can only imag­ine what that will do to our in­ter­ac­tions, re­la­tion­ships, and how we con­duct our lives.”

CP PHOTO

A Cana­dian Bor­der Ser­vices agent stands watch at Pear­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Toronto, Ont. Canada’s bor­der agency plans to com­pare im­ages of peo­ple ar­riv­ing in the coun­try with pho­to­graphs of sus­pects on watch­lists to keep out al­leged ter­ror­ists and other crim­i­nals.

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