Airport Security Kiosks Buck Privacy Rules



Metro Ottawa got a good one with this story that the Canadian Border Services Agency might have abrogated privacy procedures with its new facial-recognition kiosks at Ottawa airport.

New facial-recognition kiosks at the Ottawa airport were launched Monday without an independent privacy evaluation, Metro has learned, sparking outcry from a leading civil-rights group.

Last fall, the immigration department and Canada Border Services Agency met with the federal privacy commissioner to discuss a “biometric expansion project” that included the new Primary Inspection Kiosks, which scan international travellers’ faces to verify they match passport photographs.

Photo above: Ottawa airport: New security kiosks might have jumped the gun on privacy procedures.

At that time, the commissioner noted the need for a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), according to spokeswoman Anne-Marie Cenaiko.

Federal departments are required to complete PIAs to identify potential privacy risks for new programs, along with how they plan to reduce them. The privacy commissioner doesn’t approve or reject the PIAs, but his staff often make recommendations.

The Treasury Board’s PIA directive instructs departments to ensure “that privacy implications will be appropriately identified, assessed and resolved before a new or substantially modified program or activity involving personal information is implemented.”

But in an email, Cenaiko said the commissioner was still studying the PIA when the kiosks launched Monday. “We received the PIA at the beginning of March and are currently in the process of reviewing it,” she wrote.

To read the full story in Metro, click here.



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2 thoughts on “Airport Security Kiosks Buck Privacy Rules

    1. Voter, I think these are the kiosks that will replace the paper document that passengers arriving in Canada complete, setting out their name(s), address, flight #, whether they have been on a farm recently, and the value of the goods being brought into the country.

      Note that Canada Border Security Agency’s communications talk about replacing an old paper based system with a new computer system (implying a gain in efficiency), but quickly glosses over the facial recognition and other privacy related elements of the new system. The key to hiding disclosure in plain sight is to put it near the end of the press release. Few people ever make it past the first two paragraphs.

      It is intriguing, but not surprising, that government departments and agencies (the difference between the two being without distinction to a non-government employee) do not feel compelled to meet the requirements of government regulations. Those same departments and agencies will come down hard on anyone else who pays equal disregard for their regulations.

      On a related note:

      How many of these kiosks will be/have been deployed at the Ottawa airport?

      Where are these kiosks deployed, at the CBSA desk or near the front of the snaking queue that forms as people approach the passport control area?

      Will there be additional staff available at each kiosk to assist users, some of whom may have limited English and/or French skills in using the kiosk and for those who are not familiar with this type of kiosk?

      Have the airlines and travel agents been advised that they need to increase significantly the time between connecting flights in response to the most likely outcome, which is a serious backlog as people queue up to use an unfamiliar kiosk, and thus miss their connecting flight?


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