US and Canada border agents to start sharing travellers' data

Jul 15 2019, 4:37 pm

In a move it says is meant to support a “strong, secure, and efficient border,” the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that border agents in both Canada and the US are now able to share a variety of information on citizens travelling between the two countries.

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According to the DHS, this will include such information as “biographic data, travel documents, and other border crossing information.”

This data exchange “allows both governments to expand their situational border awareness so that the record of a traveller’s entry into one country can establish a record of exit from the other country,” officials said.

The DHS said the move is the third phase of a joint agreement between the two countries known as the Beyond the Border Action Plan, which was originally announced on February 4, 2011, by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The program’s purpose is to help the US and Canada identify persons who “overstay their lawful period of admission; monitor the departure of persons subject to removal orders; and verify that residency requirements are being met by applicants for continued eligibility in immigration programs.”

The first phase of the plan was implemented in 2012, when the US and Canada piloted the exchange of information on third-country nationals and permanent legal residents at four land border ports along the US-Canada border.

Following this, the countries institutionalized this exchange of data at all common land border ports in June 2013, as part of Phase II.

Now with Phase III of the plan underway, Acting US Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Kevin K. McAleenan said he is “proud of the cooperation between the US and Canada on this significant agreement.”

Ultimately, he added, “our commitment to sharing information on travellers moving across our borders helps improve public safety, detect dangerous actors and those who violated their visas, and enforce our rule of law.”

Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called the agreement a “strengthening the management of our shared border.”

Addressing those who have expressed privacy concerns with the policy, Goodale said the federal government “is determined to keep our border secure while protecting individual rights and freedoms, and has built privacy protections into the core of the Entry/Exit initiative.”

A release from the DHS said the process of collecting, sharing and securing information will “be done in accordance with each country’s respective privacy laws and policies.”