Privacy SOS

Going to Ottawa? Watch what you say at the airport.

Watch what you say as you travel through security and customs controlled areas at the Ottawa airport: officials will soon record your every word.

The Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA), the equivalent of US Customs Border Protection, is reportedly closing a $500,000 deal for the latest surveillance camera technology and listening microphones. A spokesperson for the agency said the microphones "will record conversations" in customs controlled areas of the airport, including at international security checkpoints.

The government says it will post "privacy" signs in the affected areas notifying people that their conversations may be recorded. 

Predictably, the union representing CBSA workers at the Ottawa airport is not pleased. A union spokesperson told The Ottawa Citizen that he and the employees were only made aware of the plans for audio recording last week. 

Like in the United States, Canadian law requires that agencies publish privacy impact assessments for any programs that collect sensitive personal information about people, but no such assessment has been produced about the audio recording plans. A spokeswoman for the agency responsible for oversight of the privacy regulation told the newspaper:

[W]e have not received a privacy impact assessment regarding audio-video monitoring at the Ottawa airport…If the CBSA were to introduce audio-video monitoring, our office would expect a full privacy impact Assessment, which we would review and make (non-binding) recommendations as necessary to protect privacy.

Here in the United States, DHS gave a Michigan city money for the purchase and installation of "listening streetlights" manufactured by a company called Intellistreets. Watch the video below to see how the systems work.

Please note that by playing this clip YouTube and Google will place a long term cookie on your computer.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.