The Canadian Public Service goes to print!

Biometrics is increasingly common as a means of identification. Terrorist threats, security of strategic data and fraud prevention are the main reasons given for reinforcing security screening measures, especially in organizations that use digital fingerprints as the ultimate means of identification, also known as “fingerprint identity verification.”

This is the means that the Canadian government has chosen to amend the security control policy adopted in 2004. Beginning February 1, 2017, the Treasury Board started gradually imposing digital fingerprints for criminal background checks in the entire Canadian public service, with full implementation planned for late October 2017.

Federal bureaucrats already working for the government will have to have their prints taken when they renew their reliability or security status, but the measure also targets all subcontractors that have contracts with federal government authorities and even journalists working on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Naturally, this new standard is not passing by unnoticed. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada is challenging it in the courts, and the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery voted unanimously to oppose the proposed security screening.

“We are opposed to it in principle because the journalists sent here to cover Parliament were already hired and approved by their employers, who feel they can be trusted in this job,” explained Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery president and Toronto Star journalist Tonda MacCharles in an interview with Le Devoir.

Security screening, largely to check for the existence of a criminal record, is currently carried out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Until now, the federal police force used only nominal information (name, citizenship, marital status, etc.).

The RCMP will now have a biometrics system capable of processing all criminal background checks using digitized fingerprints. According to the RCMP, the system will reduce errors about people and ensure that all fingerprints are destroyed with 120 days after verification.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada feels that digital fingerprinting is an “appropriate means” of authentication for an individual’s criminal background verification.

The Commissionnaires is authorized by the RCMP to digitize fingerprints and submit them directly to the Canadian Criminal Identification Services for processing.