Last week I picked up on what Tara was saying on behalf of Europeans she had spoken with about the issues surrounding biometrics embedded into passports.
Canadians are also impacted by this policy laundering and have not been consulted. It seems like a global human rights issue. Can we refuse to have our biometrics embedded in these documents? Clearly wider public discussion is needed globally.
This paper “Developing Canada’s Biometric Passport: Where are Citizens in this Picture?” is submitted for the Technology and Citizenship Symposium by Andrew Clement, and Krista Boa
The passport is the most widely used document to formally identify citizenship. Canadians, however, are being given no role in redefining this vital document, which currently is being redesigned to incorporate biometric features in accordance with recent International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and to meet new United States border crossing requirements. There is no public debate and little to no information is publicly available.
When the government does speak about this initiative it is hedged in the context of complying with international standards and increasing national security. By calling on the ICAO standard as a reason for implementing a biometric passport, Canada is seen to engage in what Ian Hosein calls â€œpolicy launderingâ€ â€“ nations committing to treaties and agreements in the arena of international governance that might not stand up to the scrutiny of public debate or achieve public support at home â€“ a process that subverts democratic principles. Furthermore, evidence does not support Canadaâ€™s argument that the technological sophistication of biometrics will eliminate confusion about the identity of individuals and reduce the threat of terrorism, including when used in combination with watch lists. This paper examines constructions of identity and citizenship that biometric passport systems induce and the implications for civil liberties, particularly the right to travel. It evaluates the discourses and rhetorical strategies used to garner public support, such as positioning privacy concerns as something that must be traded off for increased security in the â€œwar on terror.â€ It critically examines the decision-making process, specifically the absence of public debate, policy laundering, and the role of the biometric passport in Canada-U.S. border policy. Lastly, it suggests ways in which Canadian citizens can play a more appropriate role in the design, implementation, regulation, and governance of the most prominent document of Canadian citizenship â€“ the passport.