David Eaves, and Naeha Rashid in Policy Options: “A few weeks ago, members of the Nexus traveller identification program were notified that Canadian Border Services is upgrading its automated system, from iris scanners to facial recognition technology. This is meant to simplify identification and increase efficiency without compromising security. But it also raises profound questions concerning how we discuss and develop public policies around such technology – questions that may not be receiving sufficiently open debate in the rush toward promised greater security.
Analogous to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program Global Entry, Nexus is a joint Canada-US border control system designed for low-risk, pre-approved travellers. Nexus does provide a public good, and there are valid reasons to improve surveillance at airports. Even before 9/11, border surveillance was an accepted annoyance and since then, checkpoint operations have become more vigilant and complex in response to the public demand for safety.
Nexus is one of the first North America government-sponsored services to adopt facial recognition, and as such it could be a pilot program that other services will follow. Left unchecked, the technology will likely become ubiquitous at North American border crossings within the next decade, and it will probably be adopted by governments to solve domestic policy challenges.
Facial recognition software is imperfect and has documented bias, but it will continue to improve and become superior to humans in identifying individuals. Given this, questions arise such as, what policies guide the use of this technology? What policies should inform future government use? In our headlong rush toward enhanced security, we risk replicating the justification the used by the private sector in an attempt to balance effectiveness, efficiency and privacy.
One key question involves citizens’ capacity to consent. Previously, Nexus members submitted to fingerprint and retinal scans – biometric markers that are relatively unique and enable government to verify identity at the border. Facial recognition technology uses visual data and seeks, analyzes, and stores identifying facial information in a database, which is then used to compare with new images and video….(More)”.