CATSA pumps $40 million into biometric tech

Hot Wire is a regular feature that takes a closer look at in-the-news government departments and agencies at all levels, profiling headlining programs and initiatives.

Transport Canada is set to rollout a biometric card — with fingerprint and iris information — in an effort to enhance their restricted area pass system for flight crews, re-fuelers, caterers and others who require access to restricted areas.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is spending $40 million in biometric technology for Transport Canada to be implemented in 29 airports across the country by the end of this year.

A spokesperson from Transport Canada who requested anonymity said funds will be delivered by CATSA including $20 million for capital costs and $20 million for operational costs.

The restricted area identity card (RAIC) program originated under the former Liberal government and has gone through proposed regulation and a period of consultations where the public and other interested parties provided comments.

After the comments have been received and been given consideration, the regulations will be finalized and submitted for publication in the Canada Gazette , Part II: Official Regulations.

A spokesperson for CATSA, Anna-Karina Tabunar said, “Airport employees should be rest assured that using the new biometric readers will be a part of doing their regular business. Since we are a security organization, we have to implement the most technologically advanced security features.”

One of the reasons that privacy is not an issue is because CATSA does not store any personal information, said Tabunar.

“The card has a small microchip with an encrypted algorithm, or numerical representation, of the biometric templates,” she said. “In the hands of someone other than the owner the card would be absolutely useless.”

The reader scans the live sample of the individual first and then verifies if the card belongs to the presenter by comparing the live sample to the biometric template stored on the card. It determines whether they are enrolled in the RAIC program and if they have the security clearance to access the restricted area.

“The RAIC program is another layer of security to ensure that the restricted areas are accessed only by people who have authorization,” said Tabunar. “It doesn’t take anymore time than electronic swipe cards that already exist elsewhere.”

CATSA constantly monitors the effectiveness of every aspect of its operations with a view toward constant improvement, she said.

“The biometric readers are already in place for all employees at CATSA’s Ottawa headquarters.”

Visit the CATSA web site here.

Visit the Transport Canada web site here.

Visit the Canada Gazette web site here.

To access an archive of all past Hot Wires , please click here.

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