Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner is warning a new enhanced driver’s licence to be used as proof of citizenship when crossing the U.S. border carries potential privacy risks.
The use of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which is expected to permit security officials to scan the cards while the driver is still approaching the border, could lead to undesirable consequences such as identity theft, unauthorized identification and covert tracking and surveillance of individuals, Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian cautioned yesterday.
She has also red-flagged the process that will be used by Ontario to gain citizenship information.
“Applicants will have to provide proof of citizenship to the ministry of transportation, complete a questionnaire … very intrusive, and finally they have to undergo an in-person interview,” Cavoukian said.
The federal government already holds citizenship information and should provide it to provinces, instead of forcing them to duplicate the process and increase the risk of privacy breaches, she said.
The Dalton McGuinty government has introduced legislation to create an Enhanced Driver’s Licence (EDL) to be used as a cheaper alternative to the passport when crossing the border.
The EDL responds to U.S. demands for an official document with proof of citizenship when crossing the border.
Andrew Clement, a University of Toronto professor, said the ministry of transportation could have selected more advanced RFID technology with enhanced privacy protection, but instead opted for the cheaper version that is currently used to keep track of goods and livestock.
“This is the worst technology they could have chosen,” Clement said. “They’ve picked from the bottom of the heap.”
Also, the biometric or facial recognition technology, which is mentioned in the legislation, raises the possibility of “false positives,” creating the potential for cases of mistaken identity, Clement said.
The Consumers Council of Canada told the government committee reviewing the EDL bill that the province should encourage the federal government to reduce the cost of a Canadian passport as a cheaper and safer option to the EDL.
As proposed by the government, Ontarians will have the option of the EDL, a regular driver’s licence or a photo identity card.