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article imageCanada set to expand biometrics program for those entering Canada

By Karen Graham     Jun 5, 2018 in Technology
Ottawa - Beginning this summer, Canada’s Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship will require biometric data from people from Europe, the Middle East and Africa coming to Canada to visit, work, study or immigrate.
Beginning on July 31, 2018, applicants from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa submitting an application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will be required to provide certain information that includes fingerprints and a photo. U.S. citizens are exempted.
Beginning December 31, 2018, the biometrics program will expand further to include applicants from Asia, Asia Pacific, and the Americas. Canada currently collects biometrics from refugee claimants and refugee resettlement applicants from 30 countries.
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has said the expansion of the program from 30 countries to 150 countries will strengthen the border and immigration systems with the ability to quickly and accurately establish a traveler's identity. This will be accomplished using a biometric collection service network and automated fingerprint verification at ports of entry rolled out during 2018 and 2019.
Hussen added, “A key feature of biometrics expansion is that temporary residents will only have to provide their biometrics once every 10 years.”
File photo: Biometrics in use.
File photo: Biometrics in use.
How will the process be carried out?
For people outside Canada, there are a number of Visa Application Centres (VACs) set up around the world, as well as Application Support Centres in the US. In 2019, Canada will also establish select Service Canada locations. VACs are managed by private companies approved to provide specific services to IRCC applicants.
Primary inspection kiosks will also be set up in eight major Canadian airports. These kiosks will automatically check your fingerprints and take your photo, running a check against the information you have already provided to ensure you are who you say you are.
“Biometrics screening helps keep Canadians safe,” comments Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale. “The collection and verification of biometrics, along with criminal and immigration screening and biometric-based information-sharing, will help prevent identity fraud, identify those who pose a security risk and stop known criminals from entering Canada.”
A man gives his fingerprints at a polling station during Kyrgyz parliamentary elections in the villa...
A man gives his fingerprints at a polling station during Kyrgyz parliamentary elections in the village of Kara-Zhigach, outside Bishkek, on October 4, 2015
Vyacheslav Oseledko, AFP
What does biometric information include?
With biometrics, an individual can be uniquely identified by evaluating one or more distinguishing biological traits. The oldest known form of biometric verification is one's fingerprints, dating back to thumbprints being used as a means of unique identification on clay seals in ancient China.
And besides fingerprints and a photograph, there are other unique identifiers, such as hand geometry, earlobe geometry, retina and iris patterns, voice waves, DNA, and signatures.
However, biometric verification has advanced considerably with the advent of computerized databases and the digitization of analog data - allowing for almost instantaneous personal identification.
You could say that regardless of the verification methods used, the verification process remains the same. A record of a person's unique characteristic is captured and kept in a database. Later on, when identification verification is required, a new record is captured and compared with the previous record in the database. If everything matches, a person's identity is confirmed.
About two-thirds of Canada's population increase can be attributed to immigration  with natural...
About two-thirds of Canada's population increase can be attributed to immigration, with natural population growth representing the other third, according to Statistics Canada
Vaughn Ridley, Getty/AFP/File
Benefits and risks of biometric identification
According to CBC Canada, Brenda McPhail, director of privacy, technology, and surveillance at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says that while the greater use of biometrics is inevitable today, there are both benefits and risks.
"Every time you expand a program like this, you add to the level of risk and complication and increase the chances that something could go wrong," she said.
One risk is that data will be collected on foreign soil through the use of third-party data collectors, private companies collecting data on Canada's behalf. This could lead to risks, making it extremely important that those third-party employees are screened and their activities are tracked and audited.
The data from the expanded biometrics program will be shared with Canada's international intelligence partners: the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand. McPhail said that degree of information-sharing introduces its own risks.
"The more counties you start sharing information with, the more dependent we are (on) other people to also have good processes in place to make sure that the information they're sharing with us is accurate, that they're storing it properly and transmitting it safely," she said.
Asylum seekers often use wooded areas to illegally cross from the United States into Canada.
Asylum seekers often use wooded areas to illegally cross from the United States into Canada.
Geoff Robins, AFP
The whole point of collecting biometric data is not only to make sure a country is safe from "bad actors," but to ensure that a person is actually who they say they are. So this is a concern for many people who say this information is a violation of an individual's privacy if it is misused.
This is why strict protocols must be in place and the data not shared too broadly. Ann Cavoukian, a privacy expert at Ryerson University and the former privacy commissioner for Ontario, said expanded collection should not proceed until an updated privacy impact assessment is completed and any changes are made by the privacy commissioner.
"This is a major, major development. We rely on his independent oversight and comments and his independent assessment of this," she said.
More about Biometrics, Personal information, Immigration, Visas, thirdparty collection
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