Canada to trial facial recognition technology at its borders
08 January 2016 15:28 GMT

Canada’s border agency plans to begin using facial recognition technology at entry points following national pilots.

Targeted at weeding out terrorists and criminals, the tech will screen people arriving at border points and match them against criminal data-bases and so-called “watchlists”.

Canadian Border Services Agency revealed in a statement that it will be trying out the new technology at a number of unspecified locations, under specific lighting and crowd movement conditions.

The agency’s science and engineering directorate has been working with the University of Quebec and other partners to gauge the ability of devices to extract needed information from video footage.

However, the federal privacy watchdog has responded by cautioning the agency that the scheme could ensnare the wrong travellers, resulting in unwarranted scrutiny for some people at the border.

Privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien says his office had already provided advice to the agency on the potential pitfalls, including the possibility of “false positives” that could result in unnecessary secondary screening for travellers.

In written answers to the Globe, the agency said it continues to work with the commissioner to “ensure that privacy implications are appropriately addressed.”

The agency also said that test would have an “operational context,” and that no trials involving actual travellers have yet taken place.

Last June, the government said it plans to increase its collection of biometric data from visitors to Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada told CBC News that digital photos and fingerprints are "the only biometrics data applicants will have to provide" under the government's plan for expanded collection of data.