Enhanced Drivers Licenses Worry Canadians

    February 7, 2008

Canada’s privacy advocates have expressed concern over enhanced driver’s licenses that are being issued in British Columbia.

Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said," We think it’s unnecessary, we think it’s intrusive, and we think it’s a route that Canadians don’t need to follow." The enhanced licenses are being billed as an inexpensive, convenient alternative to a Canadian passport and are similar to the Real ID program in the U.S.

British Columbia started offering the licenses to a group of 500 residents last month to improve border crossings into the U.S. The enhanced licenses have a radio frequency identification chip with a "unique identifier" that can be read from 32 feet away. Canadian privacy advocates are concerned that the identifier will allows peoples movements to be tracked.

The program will allow border guards to have access to a database containing the driver’s picture, age, address and other personal information. Privacy watchdogs are concerned that the database of information will initially be controlled by the U.S. and could be used inappropriately.

The program is voluntary but Canada’s privacy commissioners issued a unanimous statement that no program should continue unless the database containing drivers information.