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

  • Father of Strasbourg attacker said son backed ISIS group

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- The man described as the father of the 29-year-old suspect in this week's deadly Christmas market attack in Strasbourg says his son subscribed to the beliefs of the Islamic State group. The interview with Abdelkrim Chekatt by the state-run France 2 television channel was shown Saturday night, two days after the son was killed in a confrontation with three police officers in his childhood neighbourhood in Strasbourg following a massive manhunt. Source
  • Everything you need to know about the new UN climate agreement

    World News CTV News
    On Saturday, officials from nearly 200 countries agreed to a set of guidelines to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland. Here’s what you need to know about the agreement, which is being called the Katowice Climate Package. Source
  • Police now have private health files found in N.W.T. dump, says health authority

    Canada News CBC News
    Hundreds of patients' health records found at a dump in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., are now with the RCMP and will soon be en route to Yellowknife. Once there, the police will hand over the files to the territory's information and privacy commissioner Elaine Keenan Bengts, according to a N.W.T. Source
  • Punches thrown during anti-immigration protest in Edmonton

    Canada News CBC News
    A fist fight broke out during an anti-immigration protest in downtown Edmonton Saturday afternoon, before police moved in to separate protesters and counter-demonstrators. There were only a few police officers present at Churchill Square when the altercation started, but more arrived after the first punch landed. Source
  • Allstate tried to cut off auto insurance sales to drivers in Brampton, Ont., lawsuit claims

    Canada News CBC News
    An Ontario woman is taking one of the province's biggest insurance providers to court, alleging she was fired for pushing back on the company's "discriminatory" effort to stop selling plans to drivers who live in Brampton. "It's just wrong, there is no other word for it," said Medha Joshi. Source
  • Migrant child who died in U.S. custody had food and water before being picked up by Border Patrol: lawyer

    World News CBC News
    Lawyers for the family of a seven-year-old girl who died while in U.S. Border Patrol custody say she did not suffer from a lack of food or water before being picked up by authorities. Their account disputes earlier information released by U.S. Source
  • Loyalty, rapport: Why Trump chose Mulvaney as chief of staff

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Demonstrated loyalty. Political savvy. Personal rapport. And, as a bonus, a decent golf game. U.S. President Donald Trump had long made clear the qualities he was looking for in his next chief of staff. Source
  • Why Trump chose Mick Mulvaney as chief of staff

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Demonstrated loyalty. Political savvy. Personal rapport. And, as a bonus, a decent golf game. U.S. President Donald Trump had long made clear the qualities he was looking for in his next chief of staff. Source
  • 'Intoxicated' man dies after falling from Victoria bridge: police

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA - Police in British Columbia's capital say a man has died after climbing the railing of a bridge and losing his balance. Victoria police say they received multiple calls early Saturday morning reporting an "intoxicated" man had climbed the Johnson Street Bridge and fallen into the frigid water below. Source
  • Quebec's anti-corruption unit blames media coverage for recruiting troubles

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Seven years after it was created, Quebec's anti-corruption unit is having difficulty recruiting members and filling a number of positions. Frederick Gaudreau, the interim head of the agency known by its French acronym, UPAC, admits unflattering coverage in the media hasn't helped. Source