Enhanced Driver’s Licences Concern Canada’s Privacy Guardians

February 6, 2008

Victoria, February 5, 2008 – Plans to consider or implement enhanced driver’s licences (EDL) in several Canadian provinces have prompted federal, provincial and territorial privacy guardians to express their concerns about the privacy and security risks of the EDL program.

The information and privacy commissioners and ombudsmen today issued a joint resolution outlining the steps that will need to be taken to ensure the privacy and security of any Canadian’s personal information accessed as part of an EDL programs. The statement is as follows:

The US government is encouraging the development of alternative requirements in order to prove identity and citizenship, as part of the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

Canadian citizens already have access to a well-established, highly-secure travel identification document in the form of the Canadian passport, but some may want an alternative.

On January 14, 2008, the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada entered into a memorandum of understanding respecting the issuance of an EDL to be used by Canadian citizens looking to enter the United States. The Government of Ontario has indicated their interest in a similar program.

Canada’s privacy commissioners, as part of their role to comment on programs that have an impact on individual privacy rights, express their significant concerns about privacy and security aspects of EDL programs.

No EDL project should proceed on a permanent basis unless the personal information of participating drivers remains in Canada.

There must be meaningful and independent oversight of how the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (a unit of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) receives and uses the personal information of Canadians.

This must include regular reporting of oversight activities and corrective measures to the Government of Canada and to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Furthermore, the Commissioners continue to be concerned by the potential threat to privacy embodied by RFID technology, which may:

  • permit the surreptitious location tracking of individuals carrying an EDL; and
  • not encrypt or otherwise protect the unique identifying number assigned to the holder of the EDL and would not protect any other personal information stored on the RFID.

Finally, Canada’s privacy guardians call on the Government of Canada and participating provinces and territories to take steps to ensure the security of personal information stored on the RFID tags embedded in enhanced driver’s licences by ensuring that:

  • robust privacy and security are built into all aspects of EDL projects, including by conducting thorough privacy impact assessments and threat risk assessments at the outset;
  • their EDL programs comply with applicable local privacy legislation; and
  • they consult early and meaningfully with their privacy commissioner or other responsible privacy oversight official on all aspects of any contemplated EDL program.

Ontario’s Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, has said “I urge the Government of Canada to securely provide citizenship information, upon request, to a province or territory for the purposes of an EDL program, and thus avoid the costs of a cumbersome and highly duplicative process being imposed upon the provinces and territories.”