Civil libertarians are warning cross-border shoppers and others visiting the U.S. to guard their privacy to avoid becoming guest stars in the controversial reality TV show Border Security.
B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director Josh Paterson said signs posted earlier this spring at B.C. border crossings advised the public they may be filmed and by being there they consent to the use of their images in the show, now in its second season of filming.
Border Security caused an uproar in March when the reality TV crews filmed a raid by Canadian border security agents where migrant workers were arrested and some later deported, despite privacy objections.
The signs posted at Lower Mainland crossings were recently revised to say those who don’t consent will have their faces obscured, but must approach TV crews if they don’t want to be filmed at all.
Paterson said it’s still “completely inappropriate” that people are filmed for the show at border crossings in Surrey and Abbotsford as well as Vancouver International Airport.
“Making a for-entertainment, for-profit reality TV series is not the job of the Canada Border Security Agency,” Paterson said. “CBSA can’t assume that people consent to being filmed for TV just because they cross the border.”
He said crossing the border should be a private interaction between a citizen and government, not with a “private third party camera crew floating around and interfering.”
The civil liberties association has launched online forms border travellers can fill out to refuse to participate in the show and it aims to lodge another privacy complaint against the federal government over the show.
CBSA has indicated the TV film crews will now only accompany agents on inland enforcement raids in cases of serious crime, not petty cases. Footage of the March migrants raid wasn’t used in the show.
Paterson argues the TV show may film people here on refugee claims whose safety could then be in jeopardy if persecutors overseas learn their location.
Those refugees likely wouldn’t think to object to being filmed either, he said.
“How can you possibly give your consent when you’re sitting there under arrest under threat of deportation?”
Force Four Entertainment, the Vancouver-based production firm that films the show, denied it’s violated anyone’s rights.
“With the exception of one convicted sex offender and two convicted drug traffickers, everyone featured in an identifiable manner in Border Security has given their verbal permission at the beginning of filming, and their written permission at end of filming,” the company said in a statement.
“For added measure, signage is visible throughout all filming locations. Without exception, everyone in the background is blurred and unidentifiable. This has been true for every episode since the beginning of the series.”