Canada still does not have a national standard for biometrics

We constantly share our biometric data, such as our fingerprints, in our daily lives. Although these are protected by certain laws, there is no national standard or policy that specifically governs their use in the public and private sectors in Canada.

When you unlock your smartphone using your fingerprint, you give biometric data to a private company. This type of technology, which saves time in many situations and is increasingly present in our environment, is not completely regulated by legislation in Canada.

Biometric data is currently protected by the Privacy Act .

In some situations, however, it is not clear whether the data is defined as personal information.

“We do not really know when a biometric data is a data that identifies a person, […] so we do not know when it becomes a personal information and therefore from when to protect it” explains Professor Pierre Trudel at the Public Law Research Center at the University of Montreal.

In Canada we have a purely cosmetic protection of privacy. […] We do not have a very proactive policy, we do not anticipate the issues and risks that could arise from the use of technologies such as biometrics.

Pierre Trudel, professor at the Public Law Research Center at the Université de Montréal

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the institution that can enact standards for the use and collection of biometric data, last reviewed this issue in 2011.

By email, a spokesperson for the Office of the Commissioner said that “advice” on this subject will be updated later this year.

In his 2011 note on challenges to biometrics , the Privacy Commissioner of Canada raises several issues.

“The particular nature of the characteristics used in biometric systems can pose privacy challenges, which are not necessarily preoccupied by traditional identification methods, such as identification”. read there.

The text describes how this type of information can provide information about a person.

For example, the images of the iris of the eye can give indications on the health of a person. Fingerprint wear can reveal information about an individual’s socio-economic status.

Canada currently has no policy on the use of biometrics by government or the private sector. As a result, there are no standards for privacy, risk mitigation or public transparency.

Excerpt from a 2011 Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s publication on biometrics
It is stated later in the same document that “once the identification element is entered and stored in a database, it is easy to access and compare with future samples, even if they are not available. they are brought together in completely different contexts “.

Mr. Trudel is adamant about the inaction of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. “There is absolutely nothing that prevents the Privacy Commissioner from setting standards for the use of biometric information,” he says.

It was impossible to get an interview with Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner, for this report.

Elli Alder is a seasoned journalist with 12 years experience as a reporter and investigative journalist. While studying journalism at Ryerson, Elli channeled her inter journalist and worked as a beat reporter for the Ryerson Rams.  As a contributor to County Telegram, Elli covers municipal and provincial politics.

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