Canadian safety minister orders stop to airport recording pending 'privacy impact assessment'

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The Canadian government may be moving away from a proposed plan to use video and audio equipment to monitor employee and traveler conversations at airports, The Ottawa Citizen reports. Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has ordered a stop to the process until a full "privacy impact assessment" can be completed, with a spokesperson saying that "we have heard concerns from Canadians regarding the privacy impact of this practice." The Canada Border Services Agency was planning to use the recording equipment as a security measure and had already installed — though not turned on — the devices in an Ottawa airport.

However, Chantal Bernier, the assistant privacy commissioner, has said that the CBSA didn't follow proper procedure. "It is a bit presumptuous, isn't it, to install the equipment before they did the privacy impact assessment?" she said. The CBSA, meanwhile, says that similar recording set-ups have been operating in other undisclosed airports throughout the country for years. The agency said that a privacy impact assessment isn't a requirement for such activity, but instead that it "will provide us with additional information concerning how we can strengthen current practices and continue to evolve our operations." The assessment is expected to be completed by 2013.

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