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

  • Can Bernier or O'Leary lead a Conservative caucus that wants O'Toole or Scheer?

    Canada News CBC News
    More than two-thirds of the Conservative caucus has gotten behind one of the 14 candidates for the party's top job. Most are supporting either Erin O'Toole or Andrew Scheer — and O'Toole has now surpassed Scheer as the favourite of Conservatives in the House of Commons, even luring two of Scheer's former backers to his side. Source
  • Marijuana industry gets boost from legalization target date

    Canada News CBC News
    Canadian marijuana businesses got a confidence boost from a CBC News report that the government plans to legalize recreational marijuana by July 2018, although big questions remain about how the legal market will work in different provinces. Source
  • 'The White House is in disarray': Trump struggles to find 'easy win' after health-care dud

    World News CBC News
    Hungry for a win after his failure to close the deal on a new health-care bill last week, Donald Trump's announcement Monday of a task force to streamline government should have been a palatable bread-and-butter offering to his conservative base. Source
  • Netflix's anti-piracy team aims to make stealing content uncool

    World News CBC News
    ?Netflix is getting tough on piracy. The streaming service giant reveals its plan of attack in an online job posting seeking someone with legal and internet piracy experience to manage its newly created Global Copyright Protection Group. Source
  • Quebec Finance Minister to table 2017-18 budget today

    Canada News CTV News
    Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao will table the province's 2017-18 budget today and says it will be one of "confidence and optimism." Leitao said earlier this month he will be tabling his third consecutive balanced budget. Source
  • French candidate's wife faces charges over parliament jobs

    World News CTV News
    French presidential candidate Francois Fillon, left, and his wife Penelope arrive for a television debate at French TV station TF1 in Aubervilliers, outside Paris, France, Monday, March 20, 2017. (Patrick Kovarik/Pool Photo via AP) Source
  • Human remains may have been discovered on Korean ferry that sank in 2014

    World News CBC News
    South Korean salvage crews on Tuesday found what is presumed to be the remains of one of the missing victims of a 2014 ferry disaster that killed 304 passengers, an official said. The remains were found in the waters near where the ship's wreckage was raised last week, said an official from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. Source
  • Malaysia says Kim Jong Nam's body still in the country

    World News CTV News
    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- The body of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is still in Malaysia, the country's health minister said Tuesday, dismissing reports that his remains were about to be flown out of the country as part of diplomatic negotiations. Source
  • Khalid Masood's wife 'saddened and shocked' by his attack near British Parliament

    World News CBC News
    The wife of the man who killed four people outside Britain's Parliament last week condemned the attack, saying she is "saddened and shocked." In statement released through London police on Tuesday, Khalid Masood's wife, Rohey Hydara, also said "I express my condolences to the families of the victims that have died, and wish a speedy recovery to all the injured. Source
  • 'Screaming, howling wind' from cyclone leaves thousands of Aussies without power

    World News CBC News
    Howling winds, heavy rain and huge seas pounded Australia's northeast on Tuesday, damaging homes, wrecking jetties and cutting power to thousands of people as Tropical Cyclone Debbie tore through Queensland state's far north. Wind gusts stronger than 260 km per hour were recorded at tourist resorts along the world-famous Great Barrier Reef as the powerful storm, at Category 4 just one rung below the most dangerous wind speed level, began to make landfall. Source