Study of the Government of Canada’s Use of Biometrics in the Border Continuum


The Government of Canada (GoC) uses biometrics to identify individuals with a level of confidence beyond what is possible absent such techniques.

Biometrics play a fundamental role in the border continuum, which includes the screening of foreign nationals seeking admission to Canada and the identification of passengers travelling internationally by air. In the course of this study, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) examined activities conducted by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), and Transport Canada (TC). The study also extended to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which plays a supporting role in one of the major IRCC-led programs in this area.

Biometrics are sensitive personal information. The identification of persons by virtue of their biological characteristics raises privacy and human rights concerns. There is public apprehension about the government’s use of biometric analysis, as reflected in discussions regarding the use of facial recognition technology and, relatedly, its possible disparate impact on marginalized groups. At the same time, identifying individuals entering the country – and consequently determining whether they have a right to enter, or what risks they might pose – serves a national security function. In this way, the use of biometrics requires an assessment of the balance between privacy and security.

This report informs, contextualizes, and contributes to this conversation by presenting NSIRA’s foundational study of the GoC’s biometric activities in the border continuum.

Privacy Preference Center