Ottawa airport wired with microphones to record travellers’ conversations
2012-06-18 0:00

By Ian MacLeod | TheOttawaCitizen

Sections of the Ottawa airport are now wired with microphones that can eavesdrop on travellers’ conversations.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is nearing completion of a $500,000 upgrade of old video cameras used to monitor its new “customs controlled areas,” including the primary inspection area for arriving international passengers.

As part of the work, the agency is introducing audio-monitoring equipment as well.

“It is important to note that even though audio technology is installed, no audio is recorded at this time. It will become functional at a later date,” CBSA spokesman Chris Kealey said in a written statement.

But whenever that occurs, the technology, “will record conversations,” the agency said in a separate statement in response to Citizen questions.

Meanwhile, as many as 88 of the new high-definition video cameras are to be ready this summer.

Once the Ottawa equipment is activated, signs will be posted referring passersby to a “privacy notice” that will be posted on the CBSA website, and to a separate help line explaining how the recordings will be used, stored, disclosed and retained.

Already, though, the union representing about 45 CBSA employees at the Ottawa airport is concerned personal workplace conversations and remarks could be captured and become part of employees’ official record, Jean-Pierre Fortin, national president of the Custom and Immigration Union, said Friday. He added that the union only learned of the audio-recording development this week, after the Citizen began making inquiries.

The CBSA statement said that audio-video monitoring and recording is already in place at other unidentified CBSA sites at airports and border points of entry as part of an effort to enhance “border integrity, infrastructure and asset security and health and safety.”


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