Feds Intend to Launch Facial Recognition System for Canadian Passport Holders: Report

By Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.
September 29, 2021 Updated: September 29, 2021

Canada will set up a facial recognition system within the next two years that will include the faces of 25 million Canadian passport holders compiled into a database, according to a federal agency notice, despite little evidence of identity fraud in Canada.

“The department must have facial recognition system support capabilities in place no later than October 2023,” the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) wrote in a notice titled “Facial Recognition Solution,” according to documents obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter, where the notice was first reported. The Epoch Times has not independently seen the documents.

The notice reportedly added that Canadians who apply for passports are considered to have agreed to their photographs being stored in a federal database. “Applicants consent to their photos being used to confirm identity through the passport program’s facial recognition system,” it wrote.

According to Blacklock’s, the department says a facial recognition system will function as an effective and accurate tool for its passport program, particularly in “authenticating the identity of each adult passport applicant which helps to increase the assurance the applicant is who they say they are.”

But a 2020 “Evaluation of the Passport Program” by the Research and Evaluation Branch of IRCC found that there aren’t many confirmed cases of identity fraud in the Canadian passport system. Between the period of 2014 and 2018, the auditors found an average of 57 cases per year.

“While the number of confirmed cases of identity fraud is small, it is difficult to ascertain the extent to which there is fraud that has not been detected,” the evaluation wrote.

The auditors noted that the technology for the facial recognition system, once implemented, has the capability to apply a “digital biometric template to an applicant’s picture and compares it to a database of over 45 million adult applicant photos to validate their identity.”

However, they also commented that the program was “not well integrated with the passport issuance system” to date, even though it has been a subject of study since 2016 when it started as a pilot project.

The dichotomy of facial recognition in privacy and security continues to be debated. In a 2013 report titled “Automated Facial Recognition In the Public and Private Sectors,” the Office of the Privacy Commissioner posed the question of whether “the loss of privacy be proportionate to the benefit gained?”

“For now, many may be accepting of facial recognition being used for public safety and security purposes,” the report said.

“The fear is, however, that the technology will be misused to further other goals of governments, such as clamping down on dissent.”

“Given these implications, strict controls and increased transparency are needed to ensure that the use of facial recognition conforms with our privacy laws and our common sense of what is socially acceptable,” it added.

Isaac Teo
Isaac Teo is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.