Canada Border Services Agency’s use of facial recognition flags man with two identities

December 14, 2016 - 

A Pakistan-born employee at an Alberta, Canada restaurant has been ordered to leave Canada after the Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) facial recognition software analyzed his driver’s license photo and determined he is an entirely different person, according to a report by National Post.

Farhan Mahmood, 38, contends that he is caught in an unusual circumstance where he and another man, Muhammad Irfan, 39, share the same face.

However, CBSA said that its biometric technology detected a man who is not legally permitted to be in Canada.

This marks one of the first reported cases of CBSA using facial recognition data to investigate immigrant status, despite the agency’s focus on using the technology for years.

CBSA said that Mahmood and Irfa are the same individual in actuality — just not on paper.

Both Irfan’s and Mahmood’s photos were entered into the Alberta Motor Vehicle System called MOVES. The CBSA ran Irfan’s 2003 driver’s license photo through the Alberta MOVES database, where the system determined that Mahmood’s 2007 driver’s license photo was a 100% match and his 2012 photo an 82.5% match.

The supervisor of Alberta’s facial recognition unit also performed a manual comparison of the photos and concluded that they were are “the strongest possible match.”

CBSA tried to have Mahmood deported over allegations of falsely representing himself, however, the Canadian immigration system’s set of checks and balances made it difficult to determine his outcome.

In 2015, the Immigration and Refugee Board held a hearing where Mahmood and CBSA testified their case.

“Even to an untrained eye the Irfan image and Mahmood images have striking similarities,” said George Pemberton, the IRB adjudicator, in his decision.

Despite agreeing that Mahmood and Irfan were the same individual, the adjudicator did not declare him inadmissible to Canada.

In its appeal to the IRB’s appeal division, the government ruled that there was sufficient reason to consider Mahmood inadmissible.

Mahmood appealed to the Federal Court in which Justice Glennys McVeigh dismissed his appeal.

CBSA has been ramping up its use of facial recognition analysis to eliminate false duplicates. In September, CBSA revealed in a report that a cyberattack on their facial recognition or fingerprints databases could either prevent innocent travellers from entering the country or allow the wrong individuals in.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.