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CANADIAN AIRPORT SECURITY AGENCY SLAMMED FOR COLLECTING TOO MUCH DATA

Source: The Vancouver Sun

Posted on November 24, 2011

Canada's privacy watchdog says the country's airport security agency broke the privacy law by collecting too much information about some travellers - and in some cases handing it over to police.

The audit, released this month along with Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart's annual report to Parliament, also found that personal information collected by the agency was not always properly secured. Stoddart was reviewing the examination of privacy policies and practices of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA).

Problems included leaving documents containing sensitive personal data on open shelves and in view in a room where passengers are taken for security checks.

The audit concluded the agency had exceeded its mandate by conducting security reports on incidents that had nothing to do with aviation security and involved instances where travellers were not breaking the law.

For example, CATSA collected information about air passengers who were carrying large sums of cash on domestic flights, even though there is no law prohibiting this. The agency contacted police in such cases.

"The one that gave us the most concern was the over-collection of personal information, where they, surely in good faith and with a great sense of duty, collected information relating to incidents that did not have anything to do with aviation security," said assistant privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier.

Since CATSA is not empowered to collect personal information about legal activities not related to aviation security, the audit recommended that the agency halt the practice.

CATSA spokesman Mathieu Larocque said the agency changed procedures as of last month, so the agency does not report large sums of cash being carried domestically. CATSA continues to report cash sums exceeding $10,000 being carried overseas, sums that must be declared under Canadian law.

The audit also notes that CATSA outsources passenger screening to 11 private-sector companies, but "has not exercised due diligence" to make sure its subcontractors protect personal data.

"It has been guided by the assumption that screening contractors are managing passengers' personal information appropriately, without any assurance that this is so," the audit states. "Based on our audit work, we concluded that CATSA is not fully complying with the Privacy Act. "

Larocque said CATSA is committed to fixing the problems. "All the recommendations that were made by the office of the privacy commissioner, we agree with them," he said. "Many of the recommendations have already been addressed and the remainder are being addressed as we speak."




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