Thursday, July 10th, 2008
Chris Sorensen, Toronto Star
July 10, 2008
Canadians flying home from the United States could find themselves standing in longer lineups at airport check-in counters if a U.S. proposal to fingerprint some exiting foreigners is adopted, the country’s largest airline warns.
In a recent U.S. filing, Air Canada said the Department of Homeland Security’s plan to expand a fingerprinting program to include passengers leaving the country by 2009 would be a “big step backward” for airlines, bogging down a check-in process that’s becoming increasingly automated.
While the fingerprint requirement won’t apply to most Canadians — with the exception of permanent residents or Canadians with dual nationalities who present a non-Canadian passport — the move threatens to slow down the check-in process for everyone since the job of determining which passengers are eligible could ultimately fall to ticket agents.
“(The proposal) would send air travellers back to check-in counters,” Air Canada warned in its filing, noting that many of its cross-border flights are commuter services targeting time-sensitive travellers.
“It also would impair the value of the airlines’ technology investments at a time when these companies are struggling mightily with unbearable, record-high fuel and other costs.”
Like other airlines, Air Canada has invested heavily in electronic ticketing and self-serve kiosks to speed the check-in process as flying becomes increasingly bogged down by post-9/11 security measures.
Air Canada, which operates more than 200 flights to 50 U.S. airports each day, estimates the cost to transmit the necessary fingerprint data under the proposed program would top $1 million a year, excluding the cost of storing the biometric images, the airline said.
The threat of extra costs comes as Air Canada is scaling capacity down and slashing 2,000 jobs in a bid to offset a fuel bill that’s set to grow by $1 billion this year.
The plan to track foreign visitors who are leaving the United States is part of a larger U.S. program called US-VISIT, which was launched after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
So far, the focus of U.S. authorities has been on identifying incoming visitors, but now officials want to set up a system to record exits as well.
Airlines argue that recording and storing passengers’ fingerprints is the government’s job.
The U.S. Air Transport Association said its members are “extremely disappointed” that U.S. officials have decided to “offload” their duties onto the industry.
A better approach, the group argues, is a partnership between government and the airlines.
That was the template for the system used to identify incoming passengers, with the air carriers collecting basic personal information — name, birthday, passport number — and forwarding it along to officials, who then perform screening and fingerprinting.
Air Canada said it is also concerned that collecting and storing passenger fingerprints could be inconsistent with Canadian privacy laws. And it questioned whether the program would meaningfully enhance security since it is not being applied to land crossings.
Source | See Also: Stolen laptop contained 32,000 farmers’ financial data | Privacy breaches ‘epidemic,’ commissioner says | Air passengers to undergo ‘virtual strip search’ | Could humiliation be the next weapon in our war on crime? | Ottawa Proposes Band-Aid ‘Bill of Rights’ for Airline Travellers | Pistol Pendant Causes Airport Holdup | US Homeland Security Keen on ‘Novel’ Israeli Airport Security Technology | Tanks, Face-Scanning Cameras Part of ‘Discreet’ 2010 Games Security | Ontario Privacy Czar Worried about High-Tech Licences | American Border Officers Want to Fingerprint Canadians at SPP Bridge | Airport scanner a ‘virtual strip search’ | U.S. to collect DNA at border | Surveillance cameras to keep an eye on downtown Calgary | Canada on way to brave new world of surveillance | Privacy issues surround planned TTC cameras