05/21/2014 12:46 EDT | Updated 07/21/2014 05:59 EDT

La Ronde Under Fire For Collecting Visitors' Fingerprints

La Ronde, the Montreal amusement park owned by Six Flags, is collecting biometric data from its users to admit them to the park. The only problem is, it hasn't been cleared to do so.

This year, the park brought in measures to collect what it calls “fingerpoints” — scans of season-pass holders’ index fingers that it will use to admit them to the amusement park.

“So what happens is season-pass owners come to the park, they have two options. Either they can do a traditional way, so they can get a season pass with picture or they can go through our new system, which is quicker,” La Ronde’s communications officer Jules Hébert told CBC Daybreak on Wednesday.

He said a person can gain access to the park in just nine seconds using this method.

However, according to Quebec privacy commissioner spokeswoman Isabelle St-Pierre, in order to operate a biometric database, a company or institution needs to first make a request to do so to the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec — a step she said La Ronde has not yet taken.

“Six Flags has not declared this database yet,” St-Pierre said.

She said that the privacy commission looks at what the applying company wants to do with the information and how it will preserve, consult and destroy it.

But Hébert from La Ronde said the park, which is owned by Six Flags, sought legal advice before implementing the finger-scanning procedure. 

"We’re working within the law, so we feel very comfortable," he said.

Difference between fingerpoints and fingerprints

La Ronde's policy is part of parent company Six Flags' new biometric pass. 

Hébert tried to argue semantics on Daybreak on Wednesday, saying that the finger-scanning picked up fingerpoints, and not fingerprints.

“It will identify points on your finger and it’ll generate a mathematical formula. That formula will be saved on our local servers, and every time you come and scan your finger we’ll try to coordinate these points with your fingerpoints. So this is the process. There are no fingerprints, we don’t say fingerprints,” he told host Mike Finnerty.

But Boris Perron, an investigator specialized in information technology with the Quebec privacy commission, said fingerpoints are the biometric measure of fingerprinting — and both fingerpoints and fingerprints are subject to privacy laws governing biometric databases.

Perron explained that when a scanner reads a person's finger, it picks up points, or characteristics, that identify a person. A database can store those points and not a direct image of the fingerprint, but it's sort of six of one and half-dozen of the other.

He said of fingerpoints, "That's what the biometric measure is."

Law says offer alternative

Part of the law on information technology stipulates that citizens must be given the option of not supplying their biometric data.

“You can’t refuse a service or good to a person because they refuse to give their biometric data,” St-Pierre said.

Hébert said the park does offer an alternative option to its users, even if an information leaflet it distributes describing how to enter the park doesn’t make that clear. 

Disney theme parks in the U.S. have already introduced biometric screening.

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