YVR Vancouver Airport to Become the First in Canada to Use Facial Recognition for Nexus Kiosks

Vancouver airport is set to become the very first airport of Canada to start using facial recognition technologies for Nexus Cardholders returning from overseas and the United States. However, the technology has been a major concern for advocates of privacy rights. Contentions include the lack of oversight mechanisms for border agencies, and the lack of redressal upon a breach.

Nexus cardholders, who are required to submit to screening and pay a fee through the joint U.S. Canada program, are allowed to bypass regular security check lines. Now these cardholders will be prompted to download the photograph from their passports, the next time they use a Nexus line for travel.

The kiosks which used to use iris scanners earlier, will not be equipped to identify passengers through complete facial recognition features. Travelers coming into Canada without a Nexus card have been subjected to facial surveillance technologies for international airports for the past two years. The new initiative will allow the CBSA to sync its verification practices with the biometric collection to standards recognized around the world.

Oversight and Transparency Issues Create Hurdles

The initiative has been subject to criticism over the unreliability and the potential for misuse, such as comparing images with known crime suspects or terrorists. In addition, the border agencies for the United States and Canada have displayed lack of transparency, due process and oversight, which results in an overall lack of accountability.

On the other hand, the CBSA has tried to allay fears saying that the use, collection and sharing of facial recognition data is protected by privacy legislation in both countries: “No personal information is stored on the kiosk. The only information retained is saved securely on CBSA systems, in accordance with government information, privacy and security policies. “The CBSA’s goal to increase efficiencies without compromising security. The images will be used solely for the purposes of identity verification during passage.”

On the other hand, Canadian Nexus card holders are unlikely to be reassured by the protection offered by U.S. privacy laws, as the regulations are not applicable to non-Americans.