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Biometrics & Privacy Concerns

The Canadian government is introducing biometrics to make identifying immigrants entering Canada more efficient. Privacy advocates are concerned about the sharing of sensitive personal information and about whether proper safeguards will be in space to minimize risk.

Countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Australia have used these methods for some time now and the Federal government maintains that biometrics will help specifically prevent identity fraud/theft, bar access to criminals and stop deportees and failed refugee claimants from re-entering Canada using fraudulent means.

Canada is a member of the Five Country Conference alongside the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Through bilateral agreements, they have agreed to a High Value Data Sharing Protocol, to share biometrics of non-citizens with each other for immigration purposes only. This mostly covers refugee claimants, but also immigration enforcement cases.

The members are working together to ensure privacy through a variety of methods. They make sure all fingerprints are anonymously shared and can’t be linked to a person unless a match is made; fingerprints are destroyed once a search is done, and additional information is exchanged only once a match is made. Everything passes through a secure central server in Australia and encryption and security tools are used to protect the files shared electronically.

In addition to the increased reliance on biometrics in general, the Temporary Resident Biometrics Project will be launched next year which will require people in some countries to give their fingerprints and be photographed when applying for temporary Canadian residency through a visa, study permit, or work permit.

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