Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Privacy Commissioners come out against national (RF)ID cards

The Federal, Provincial and Territorial Privacy Commissioners came out yesterday against proposed RFID embedded super drivers licenses designed to facilitate border crossings:

Nova Scotia News -

Keep drivers' information in Canada — officials

Privacy commissioners slam plan to produce national identity cards


The Canadian Press

Wed. Feb 6 - 6:15 AM

VICTORIA — Personal information about Canadian drivers must stay in the country as plans are developed to introduce high-tech driver’s licences in Canada that will be accepted as identification at United States border crossings, Canada’s privacy commissioners said Tuesday.

The commissioners issued a joint statement that called on Ottawa and provincial and territorial governments participating in the so-called enhanced driver’s licence programs to ensure the personal information of participating drivers stays in Canada.

The commissioners also said they continue to voice their opposition to any plans to introduce national identity cards and systems.

British Columbia and the federal government reached an agreement last month to start issuing the enhanced driver’s licences on a trial basis. Ontario is examining a similar licensing program.

The enhanced licences, equipped with radio frequency chips, allow border officials to access personal identity information. They can be used as an alternative to a Canadian passport.

Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s privacy commissioner, said her office is monitoring the progress of the enhanced driver’s licence program and recently received a government privacy-impact analysis. She said her office is not yet ready to give the green light to the licence program.

"Maybe our positions are more nuanced than that when we say with all these progressive and incremental steps towards measures that increasingly limit Canadians’ privacy, this is what you should be looking for," Stoddart said.

"These are the steps you need to follow," she said. "Have you chosen the least privacy-invasive route?"

David Loukidelis, B.C.’s privacy commissioner, said Canadians need to be reminded that a Canadian passport is a well-established, highly secure identification document.

"These enhanced driver’s licences or EDL programs do raise concerns about security and privacy of personal information on a number of fronts," Loukidelis said.

There are concerns that the radio frequency technology on the chips embedded into the licences could be skimmed by others or used to track individuals, he said.

The commissioners are concerned about the transfer across borders of databases containing personal information about Canadians, Loukidelis said.

"We don’t do that now with passport databases and we don’t see why we would need to do anything differently when it comes to enhanced driver’s licences."

The B.C. government has received 800 volunteers for the enhanced driver’s licence program within the first two days of the pilot project.

John van Dongen, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, said 500 licences will be issued in British Columbia.

He said the information contained in the licences provides border officials with proof of citizenship, a photograph to confirm identity and status to legally cross the border.

"They do not access medical records," he said. "They do not access driver’s records. They do not access fines, tickets, penalties. They do not access accident history. None of that information is of any interest to the border agencies in either country."

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