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Privacy Commissioner expresses Concern over Biometric data collection powers

Posted in Canada, Talking Politics

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Published on June 05, 2015 with No Comments

Travellers to Canada who require visas to face biometric testing

Canada is expected to increase security measures placed on incoming travellers from countries that require visas by introducing a series of biometric tests.

The policy change will add another layer of security to try to prevent criminals from entering the country.

Biometrics can involve a range of physiological testing, including fingerprinting, facial recognition, hand geometry, iris recognition, retinal scan and many others. Travellers from nearly 30 countries — including Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt –- are already required to undergo these types of security checks, but the new changes will see 148 nations added to the list.

The screenings will take place before a person enters Canada, and will only apply to foreign nationals with visas.

The practice is common in Europe, and among Canada’s intelligence allies including the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. 

The federal government’s move to expand its power to collect biometric information on visitors to Canada is giving rise to privacy concerns and calls for closer scrutiny.

The government currently collects a digital photograph and 10 fingerprints to verify the identity of foreign nationals from 29 countries and one territory when they apply to temporarily visit study or work in Canada.

Changes proposed in the government’s 167 page budget bill would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to allow the collection of biometric information from any person who applies to come to Canada. Once an applicant is accepted, “further” biometric information could be collected “for verification purposes.”The government expects to collect data from 2.9 million people by 2018-19.

The proposed changes did not go unnoticed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Daniel Therrien, Canada’s privacy watchdog, sent a letter to parliamentarians to ask about the extent of the changes following testimony by government officials.


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