Canada’s privacy watchdog isn’t happy about new American security rules that will require Canadian airlines to provide personal information of passengers flying over the United States, but Chantal Bernier says Ottawa is powerless to do anything about it.
“There is a limit that is beyond us — and that is United States sovereignty over U.S. air space,” Bernier testified at parliamentary hearings into aviation safety and security.
U.S. ‘Secure Flight’ rules, which will take effect in December, mean that passengers who share the name of someone on a U.S. security watch-list can be prevented from boarding flights that fly over U.S. airspace. As Canwest News Service reports, this means the Americans will have the ability to prevent someone in Canada from boarding a flight to Mexico.
“Geography works against us here,” Bernier told MPs on the House of Commons transport committee. “There is no other choice but to fly over the United States and there is no other choice but to abide by U.S. law.”
If a passenger’s name matches that of someone on a U.S. watch-list, the Department of Homeland Security will keep the information for seven years. That skyrockets to 99 years in cases of definitive matches. A false positive is likely to take 50 to 60 days to clear up, effectively cancelling travel plans.
Another privacy concern is that passenger information supplied to the U.S. could be disclosed and used for other purposes, including law enforcement and immigration, Bernier told the committee.
Bernier called on the federal government to inform Canadians of the exact scope of personal information that will be collected by U.S. authorities under Secure Flight, and try to negotiate a redress mechanism to support citizens impacted by false positive results.