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Canada will make foreign visitors pay for biometrics collection


Details have emerged about the expansion of a program for collecting fingerprints and facial images from foreign nationals visiting Canada, CBC reports.

The program previously applied only to refugee claimants, asylum seekers, and visa applicants from countries considered to present a heightened risk of ID document fraud. The previously announced expansion from 30 to roughly 150 countries will strengthen border security and immigration systems, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said.

Applicants will have to pay a CAD$85 (US$66) fee to cover the cost of the program. It will apply to visitors from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa as of July 31, and to those from Asia, the Asia-Pacific region, and the Americas as of December 31. It only applies to those between 14 and 79 years old, and there are several exemptions, such as for U.S. citizens on work or student visas.

The data will be shared with Canada’s “Five Eyes” intelligence partners: the U.S., UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Canadian Civil Liberties Association Director of Privacy, Technology, and Surveillance Brenda McPhail raised several concerns, telling the CBC that the system would more likely be targeted by hackers, that the employees of the private-sector firms that will collect data in other countries would have to be properly screened, and that sharing the data with other countries raises other possible 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.

A series of privacy assessments shared with Canada’s Privacy Commissioner provide information on the measures included in the program to mitigate privacy risks. Among them, data will be deleted after ten years, or when an individual is granted citizenship.

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