Some parts of Ottawa’s airport have received upgrades to their aging video system. The new system will include audio recording as well as HD video.
A CBSA statement said that audio-video monitoring and recording is already in place at unidentified CBSA sites at 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.
But whenever that occurs, the technology, “will record conversations,” the agency said in a separate statement in response to questions from the Ottawa Citizen.
You can now feel safe that your conversations aren’t being recorded now, but they will be in the future. Privacy issues, however, are not a concern of the CBSA as they claim they are making you safer.
At Ottawa’s airport, signs will be posted referring passersby to a “privacy notice” that will be posted on the CBSA website once the equipment is activated, and to a separate help line explaining how the recordings will be used, stored, disclosed and retained.
Already, though, the union representing about 45 CBSA employees at the airport is concerned personal workplace conversations and remarks could be captured and become part of employees’ official record, Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Custom and Immigration Union, said Friday. He added that the union only learned of the audio-recording development this week, after reporters began making inquiries.
CBSA are more concerned with catching criminals who are using the airport to smuggle their contraband. The problem is that only the stupid criminals will be caught. The smart criminals will be talking about the latest hockey game, current events, or their children’s first words. They aren’t going to be discussing illegal activities.
A crucial aspect of the change are proposed regulations giving border services officers expanded powers to question, examine and search airport workers and travellers, both domestic and international, within the designated areas.
The controlled areas at Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier International Airport include the areas surrounding aircraft that have arrived in or are about to leave Canada; the primary inspection area where all travellers must report to a border services officer; the secondary inspection area where border services officers conduct further examinations of travellers and goods; as well as certain holding and departure areas at the airport.
The areas surrounding the aircraft are extremely noisy. In 28 years of traveling, I have yet to see employees near the aircraft speak more than a few words. Typically, they aren’t saying anything because there’s too much noise to do so. The primary inspection area is like an elevator. People rarely speak there. The secondary inspection area may have more talking, but it’s usually some airport security official talking to a passenger. Any passenger that discusses moving contraband there deserves to be arrested.
“Certain holding and departure areas” is vague enough that it could be just about anywhere. If the departure areas are the gates, then, unless you’re with a group, it’s unlikely people are talking to each other there either. Again, departure areas are much like elevators. There is an occasional hello or a question as to whether a seat is taken, but the only real talking is people attempting to get to their departure gate correctly.
This isn’t about terrorism. This is about people smuggling more items in the country than is allowed, such as alcohol and cigarettes, as well as illegal substances. It’s about what you might accidentally say that the government doesn’t like, such as a crass joke about blowing up the airport. It’s about government paranoia and their desire to control everything you do.
Canadians are now left hoping that the Privacy Impact Assessment will come through before the audio is turned on and verify that audio recordings at any airport violate privacy laws already in place.
Photo via the Ottawa Citizen.