The Canadian federal government has started installing microphones and cameras in passengers areas at the Ottawa airport to listen in on conversations and identify potential security threats.
There will be signs posted around the airport referring people to a privacy notice on the website for the Canadian Border Services Agency and a phone number for a help line that will provide information on how these recordings are being used and stored. No word on who will actually staff the help line, given the cuts most departments are seeing.
The CBSA assured Canadians that the equipment being set up right now is not currently recording – but it will be “at a later date.”
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is currently reviewing the CBSA’s privacy assessment concerning monitoring at ‘customs controlled areas,’ but told Postmedia reporter Ian MacLeod that if the CBSA wants to introduce audio-video monitoring, they will need to see a full privacy impact report.
Any recommendations the Privacy Commissioner might make in response to such a report would be non-binding, but such a report might draw the Canadian public’s attention to issues.
The union that represents CBSA employees at the Ottawa International Airport has raised concerns that worker conversations might be recorded and things they say could be unfairly used against them.
There has been no reporting of what customs agents will be actively listening for or what type of conversation could lead to action. Will they be listening for specific keywords? Will there be CBSA staff in charge of sitting in a room and listening to conversations 24 hours a day?
It seems unlikely.
This new technology is most likely more preventative than anything, making people aware that anything they say could be used against them at a later date.
The CBSA says the aim is to deter smugglers and organized crime.
Once again the privacy of the many is deemed little cost compared to the crimes of the few.
Photo Credit: redjar