Canadian airports bring biometrics on board

Airport workers across Canada will soon be required be supply fingerprint identification to access restricted areas.

The <a href=http://www.catsa-acsta.gc.caCanadian Air Transport Security Authority, the agency responsible for managing the initiative, will deploy

biometric scanners in four airports to start with as part of a pilot project. Those airports have not been named yet, but if the pilot goes well the nation’s major airports, including 29 locations covering 92 per cent of Canadian air traffic, will be equipped with scanners by the end of the year.

The restricted area of an airport refers to any area beyond the passenger security screening points. Workers affected by the move to biometric security measures include “”anyone who has access to the restricted area and has a pass giving them access to that area,”” said Renée Fairweather, a spokesperson for CATSA. “”That includes flight crews, caterers, refuelers, baggage handlers, even the people working in the concession stands.””

Those workers are currently required to carry security passes which act as swipe cards for restricted doors. Each airport worker in Canada is assigned a document number when they are hired and receive security clearance by Transport Canada. Workers will now also have to have their fingerprint scanned, which will generate a unique identifier. That identifier will be stored on the pass. Biometric scanners on restricted doors will match the person’s actual fingerprint to the identifier on the pass and open the door accordingly.

Contracts have been awarded to several Canadian companies to provide the necessary equipment, including Mississauga, Ont.-based Bioscrypt Inc. Colin Soutar, chief technology officer at the firm said an airport in Kelowna, B.C., is already using the technology, as well as several airports in the U.S.

Other airports have tried their own versions of biometric security to monitor employees. Thunder Bay International Airport, for example, ran a pilot program two years ago using facial recognition software. But CATSA’s plan to roll out a national biometric security program may be the most comprehensive to date.

“”It looks like Canada’s deployment of this is likely to be the first major deployment in the world. It could very well be used as an example for other countries in the world, including the U.S,”” said Soutar.

CATSA’s pilot program will affect 40,000 Canadian airport workers, but a full rollout would increase that number to 150,000.

Along with Bioscrypt, ACME~Future Security Controls, HID Corp. and Cross Match Technologies have been selected to implement the fingerprint technology. The other half of the request for proposal — that which would determine the supplier of the database to store this information — has not yet been completed.

According to CATSA, this database would contain only the document numbers employees are assigned when they are first hired and the biometric signature generated by the fingerprint — not an image of the fingerprint itself or any other personal information like names or addresses.

As part of a federal government mandate, CATSA has already begun to implement other security measures in airports, like random screenings of airport workers. There are no plans to extend biometric security procedures to passengers at Canadian airports, but Fairweather said it was a possibility for the future.

In Oct. 2001, the Canadian government announced a broad airport security program including $55.7 million for the purchase of advanced explosives detection systems and electronic security measures. The same announcement saw the government earmark $8 million for scanning units to transmit fingerprint, palm print and photographic data at airport security points and border crossings.

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