Sunday, January 18, 2004

Article: Ontario considering putting biometric data on drivers' licenses

In an earlier post, I linked to an article which said Manitoba had abandoned plans to include biometric identifiers on drivers' licenses. It looks like Ontario is looking at going down the road of biometrics on licenses. This is from Friday's Globe and Mail:

The Globe and Mail (Friday, January 16, 2004 12:00 AM Page A8): "TORONTO -- Ontario's Liberal government is exploring the possibility of putting biometric identifiers such as fingerprints and iris scans on drivers' licences as part of a continent-wide effort to prevent identity theft.

'Security is our main concern,' Harinder Takhar, the province's Transportation Minister said yesterday, adding that his ministry is working with authorities in other jurisdictions to determine what sort of harmonization will eventually be necessary."

After reports of companies - such as bars - "scanning" licenses and keeping the data indefinitely, the privacy risks of encoding more data on licenses are huge.

See the following from the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Review Officer:

In another matter, a patron at a Halifax bar who was asked to show her driver's license to prove her age, objected when her card was taken and the information encoded on the back of the card swiped into a database. The bar said it did this to confirm the age of the patron. The patron went public with her complaint and the Review Officer was interviewed in the press to provide his views of this practice. He noted that it was proper for bars to ask for proof of age but inappropriate for them to enter the information into a database over which the patron has no control. The Review Officer has written to the manager to ask for more information about the use of the database.

This story was also reported in the Halifax Chronicle Herald on August 13, 2003. It is no longer available online, but has been reproduced and posted by John van Gurp (who has an interesting page highlighting the growing presence of privately owned video surveillance cameras in the public spaces of Halifax.) There are also more recent reports of a proposed project to photograph and scan ID from visitors to bars in downtown Vancouver.

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