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Canada to eavesdrop at airports, border crossings


Canada announced this week that it will begin using high-definition cameras and microphones capable of recording conversations between travelers at border crossings and airports.

The plan behind the cameras and microphones is to deter criminals and drug smugglers, but employees working at border crossings and airports, and their unions, are concerned because their conversations will also be recorded, noted an article that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen.

According to officials at the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) quoted in The Atlantic, the eavesdropping initiative is designed to enhance “border integrity, infrastructure and asset security and health and safety.”

The government has stated that when cameras and microphones are activated, a privacy notice will be posted to alert the public. The border services agency has also committed to provide a telephone help line explaining how the recordings will be used, stored, disclosed and retained.

Currently, the equipment has been installed at several airports, but has not yet been activated. Government guidelines require its departments to conduct a privacy impact assessment before creating new programs that impact privacy. It is expected that a full review will be undertaken by the border services agency, along with non-binding assessments by the federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

When activated, the equipment will mostly likely depend upon biometric technologies such as voice recognition in order to provide searchable and actionable intelligence for criminal and security investigations.

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