Toronto, Ontario – Ontario’s proposed enhanced driver’s licenses (EDLs) and enhanced photo I.D. cards are a waste of money, pose significant privacy risks, and establish a de facto national I.D. card in Canada, according to a coalition of privacy, consumer, civil liberties and civil society groups. The groups want the province to cease all plans under the Photo Card Act (Bill 85).

“The introduction of enhanced driver’s licenses, which appears to be a central focus of Bill 85, will lay the groundwork for a new and more extensive identity regime, the effects of which are not fully known,” said Graeme Norton, director of the Public Safety Project with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “While the cards would be voluntary for now, Bill 85 creates broad-reaching powers with respect to identity documents, and fails to sufficiently circumscribe the manner in which these powers can be used.”

The technologies the government is exploring for the proposed licenses include facial recognition technology and radio frequency identification devices (RFID). The standards for RFID were set in the United States, and introduced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“The current DHS standard for the RFID chip on enhanced I.D. cards is without security protections, such as data encryption, is designed to be read at distances of at least 10 metres, and is widely used in the livestock and supply chain management fields,” said Andrew Clement, professor in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. “This long scanning range allows surreptitious location tracking, and there is nothing the Ontario or Canadian governments can do to stop U.S. security officials from storing our biometric and other information on parallel databases, where Canada’s privacy laws do not apply.”

Canadian provinces, including Ontario, say that EDLs are a cheaper way to abide by unilaterial U.S. requirements that all Canadians present a valid passport or other secure document when they cross the border. The proposed fee for the EDL is $75, versus the current $87 passport fee.

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