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Canada requests bids to develop biometric management office strategy

Op-ed criticizes investment in border biometrics

CBSA Office of Biometrics and Identity Management

The Canada Border Services Agency has invited 15 groups to submit proposals as it attempts to stand up an Office of Biometrics and Identity Management to develop and implement a strategy for biometrics to deal with border issues including pandemic controls, according to The Canadian Press.

The procurement notice is for assistance in the development of a biometrics strategy, including consideration of the agency’s relationship with other federal agencies and international partners.

In the United States, Department of Homeland Security biometrics are deal with by the agency’s similarly-named Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM).

Firms invited to submit bids are Kleins Consulting, Accenture, ADRM Technology, Altis Human Resources and Excel Human Resources, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, I4C Information Technology, Modis Canada, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, SoftSim Technologies, The AIM Group, Transpolar Technology and The Halifax Computer Consulting Group, Trillys Systems and TRM Technologies.

“The Contractor will bring knowledge, capabilities, and experience to support CBSA’s urgent need to establish a biometric strategy, biometric foundation and ultimately a Biometrics Authority (Centre of Excellence),” CBSA states.

Bids are due on June 21, 2021, and the estimated delivery date a year from the August 2, 2021 start date.

Canadian investment in border biometrics accused of techno-solutionism

An editorial by a pair of lawyers and academics in the CBC argues that Canada’s border has become a testing ground for rights-eroding biometric technologies in the name of security.

Canada’s government has earmarked C$656 million (US$542 million) for investment in facial recognition and other technologies by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) in its 2021 budget, and also mentions fingerprint biometrics.

The budget states that the technologies are to be equitably implemented for different demographics, but the object that AI is “anything but neutral.” Their definition of facial recognition includes behavior analysis and lie detection, and they cite the iBorderCTRL system previously tested in Europe, though it is not clear that the Canadian government defines the technology the same way.

A CBSA spokesperson says a similar system tested by Canada is not in consideration for operational deployment.

The editorial refers to the decision of Canadian Privacy Commissioners on Clearview and related facial recognition technologies, and asks why “this type of technology (is) being celebrated and rolled out at Canadian borders?”

The editorial goes on to attempt to draw a distinction with the recent EU rules for AI, noting “various bans and parameters,” but neglecting to note that the use of face biometrics is still allowed, and will continue, at EU borders.

Ultimately, the editorial authors declare facial recognition “a manifestation of systemic racism or nothing more than snake oil,” again referring to the iBorderCTRL lie detector system.

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