Canadian Border Services to install recording devices in airport to cut down on crime

Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has announced that airports and border crossings across Canada will soon feature high-definition cameras and microphones to monitor employee and traveler conversations. CBSA said audio-video monitoring has already been installed in several unidentified airports and border points of entry as part of an effort to enhance "border integrity, infrastructure and asset security and health and safety."

"It is important to note that even though audio technology is installed, no audio is recorded at this time. It will become functional at a later date," CBSA spokesman Chris Kealey said in a written statement.

CBSA is working on completing a "privacy impact assessment" to determine the effect on passenger privacy. The Treasury Board requires departments to conduct a "privacy impact assessment" before substantially modifying or establishing any new program or activity which involves accessing personal information. The assessment is then reviewed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

Once they begin recording, signs will be posted notifying travelers of the cameras; There will also be a help line that travellers can call to obtain further information on how the recordings will be used, stored, disclosed and retained.

However, Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of Canada's Custom and Immigration Union, is concerned that personal workplace conversations and remarks could be captured and become part of an employee's' official record.

A 2008 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police found that at least 58 crime groups were believed active at major airports; they were typically involved in corrupting airport employees or involved in placing criminal associates in airport jobs to move narcotics and other contraband to and from planes. The recordings will give border officers access to information when questioning and examining airport workers and travellers suspected of involvement in criminal activity.

The recording devices will be placed in controlled areas including the areas surrounding airplanes that have arrived in or are about to leave Canada, passport and visa check areas, and the secondary inspection area where border services officers conduct further examinations of travellers and goods.

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