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Even Smart Card industry opposed to “enhanced” licences

The CBC interviews Catherine Johnston, CEO of the Advanced Card Technologies Association of Canada, who also questions why long-distance RFID chips are being used in provincial and U.S. state ‘enhanced’ driver’s licences. So that means privacy commissioners, civil liberties activists and the companies that produce the technology are all opposed to its use to track and security-check human beings.

Say Freeze! A sample EDL in new Ontario government documents promoting the criticized technology

Say Freeze! A sample EDL in new Ontario government documents promoting the criticized technology.

“The chip contains an identification number that is linked to a North America-wide database that contains personal information about the licence holder as well as an image of his or her face that can be used by facial recognition software,” writes the CBC.

“At least 16 agencies in the U.S. share the information in the database, said Roch Tassé, co-ordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, a watchdog coalition of non-profit organizations and other groups that has been arguing against the cards.”

Several provinces, including Saskatchewan, Alberta, New Brunswick and PEI, have canned their EDLs for security or cost reasons. But over 8,000 Quebecers have allegedly applied for and received their cards (Jean Charest nabbed the first one earlier this year), and the Ontario government calls the them “ideal for licenced drivers who frequently travel to the U.S.” in its glossy new sales pitch/information guide.

Note the man in the sample card on some pages of the Ontario document isn’t smiling. That’s because the facial recognition technique they’re using requires you to put on your unhappiest face. He’s probably also worried about fraud after a La Press journalist was able to clone a card and use it to cross the border as someone else! The Ontario guide doesn’t mention that flaw. In fact it promotes the card as “state of the art” in terms of fraud protection.

It’s also not secure from Department of Homeland Security snooping. “It can be cross-referenced with private sector databases for profiling, for data mining, so your information is not really secured at all once it’s in the hands of Homeland Security in the United States,” Tassé told the CBC.

Bottom line — Get the card as a novelty or collectible if you must, kind of like a Blackberry Storm prototype. But leave it at home and use your passport to travel. And when that Ministry of Transportation worker asks you to frown on your next driver’s licence renewal photo, say cheese and tell them it’s your right to smile.