New airline passenger vetting could lead to racial profiling, watchdog warns

OTTAWA - The federal border agency's new system for scrutinizing incoming air passengers could open the door to profiling based on race or other personal factors, warns Canada's privacy czar.

See Full Article

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien is pressing the Canada Border Services Agency to explain the program's rationale and build in safeguards to protect civil liberties.

Canadian law requires commercial airlines to provide the border agency with specific information about passengers flying to Canada, including name, birthdate, citizenship, seat number and other data.

For years the border agency has used the information to try to zero in on terrorists or other serious international criminals. Travellers are assessed for risk, allowing the agency to single out those with high-risk scores for closer examination at the airport.

The border agency is moving to a system known as scenario-based targeting, already used by the United States, as part of Canada's commitment to work closely with Washington under a perimeter security pact forged in 2011.

The border agency says the new scheme will be more efficient, effective and accurate, directing the focus to a smaller segment of the travelling population who represent a potential high risk.

The new scenario-based method uses Big Data analytics - extensive number-crunching to identify patterns - to evaluate all data collected from air carriers, says Therrien's office, which reviewed the border agency's privacy impact assessment of the project.

"Designed to harmonize with the system used by the U.S., it could allow the operator to, for example, search for all males aged between the ages of 18-20 who are Egyptian nationals and who have visited both Paris and New York," Therrien says in his recently released annual report.

The privacy commissioner is concerned travellers may now be targeted for increased scrutiny if they fit the general attributes of a group - "subjected to recurring and unnecessary attention at the border because of characteristics they cannot change," such as age, gender, nationality, birthplace, or racial or ethnic origin.

Therrien's office recommended the border agency:

  • Demonstrate the necessity of scenario-based targeting, beyond the general purpose of aligning Canada's system with that of the U.S.;
  • Be more transparent by fleshing out the privacy impact assessment with general descriptions of the types of scenarios that might be used to identify potentially high-risk travellers;
  • Conduct regular reviews of the "effectiveness and proportionality of scenarios," including an examination of impacts on civil liberties and human rights;
  • Prepare a broader privacy assessment of the overall program used to collect passenger information from airlines.

The border agency "responded positively" to all of the recommendations, Therrien's office says in the annual report.

However, the commissioner has yet to receive the requested details about the program, said Valerie Lawton, a spokeswoman for Therrien.

The border agency could not immediately provide information on the project's status or about efforts to comply with the commissioner's recommendations.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 100 years on, 'forgotten' WWI Canadian victory at Hill 70 memorialized

    Canada News CBC News
    A group huddles around a collection of large black-and-white portraits strewn across a table at the armoury in Kamloops, B.C. Peering through magnifying glasses, they search for a specific face among the rows of troops dressed in identical uniforms. Source
  • Amid Trans Mountain uncertainty, pro-pipeline Indigenous peoples make a pitch for development

    Canada News CBC News
    Some Indigenous leaders in B.C. scored a major victory recently after they successfully lobbied Premier John Horgan to join a legal fight to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The $7.4 billion project, which got the green light from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last fall, now faces an uncertain future in the face of vehement opposition from some anti-pipeline protesters, which count many First Nations peoples among their ranks. Source
  • While millions watch the eclipse from Earth, NASA observes from the sky

    World News CBC News
    Sharmin Chowdhury isn't messing around, not when she's waited almost her whole life for this. She brought three different devices to protect her eyes as she watches what's been dubbed the "Great American Eclipse." "I definitely wanted to experience one totality in my life," she says. Source
  • University of Texas removing Confederate monuments from campus square

    World News CBC News
    University of Texas president Greg Fenves has ordered the immediate removal of statues of Robert E. Lee and other prominent Confederate figures from a main area of campus, saying such monuments have become "symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism. Source
  • Far-right group, in clash with anti-fascist counter-protesters, declares Quebec City rally against 'scourge of illegal immigration' a success [Photos]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Just one week after a white supremacist protest erupted in violence that injured several people and took a woman’s life in Charlottesville, Va., the far-right group La Meute and counter-protesters clashed in Quebec City on Sunday, with some throwing chairs, wine bottles and bricks. Source
  • Chicago prof, chatroom buddy stabbed sleeping boyfriend 70 times in sexual fantasy: Prosecutors

    World News Toronto Sun
    CHICAGO — The fatal stabbing of a hairstylist in Chicago was part of a sexual fantasy hatched in an online chatroom between a Northwestern University professor and an Oxford University employee, whose plan included killing someone and then themselves, prosecutors told a Cook County judge Sunday at a bond hearing for the men. Source
  • 26 bulldog puppies found in hot van at store: Officials

    World News Toronto Sun
    THE ASSOCIATED PRESS First posted: Sunday, August 20, 2017 11:24 PM EDT | Updated: Sunday, August 20, 2017 11:29 PM EDT Source
  • Gorilla who had surgery to relieve constipation dies of cancer

    World News Toronto Sun
    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 49-year-old lowland gorilla at the Topeka Zoo in Kansas died Sunday after tests revealed she had late-stage ovarian cancer that had spread, four days after undergoing surgery for constipation. The zoo said in a statement that after Tiffany failed to improve since her surgery Wednesday to clear “a significant amount of stool” from her colon, the gorilla was taken Sunday for scans that revealed two abdominal masses later identified as tumours linked to stage-four ovarian…
  • U.S. warship collides with tanker near Singapore; 10 missing

    World News CTV News
    SINGAPORE -- A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer collided with a tanker early Monday in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca, and at least 10 sailors are missing. The Navy said five others were hurt. Source
  • U.S. warship collides with tanker near Singapore

    World News CTV News
    SINGAPORE -- A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer collided with a tanker early Monday in waters east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, and at least 10 sailors are missing. The Navy said five others were hurt. Source