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Kick-starting the discussion on EDLs

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Two weeks ago, the provincial government of British Columbia announced that it would be making enhanced driver’s licences (EDLs) available to eligible B.C. residents. These licences – a first in Canada – would be recognized as an alternative to a passport at the Canada-U.S. border.

What makes them “enhanced”? The B.C. version of the EDL will feature a Canadian flag, a special code used by border authorities, and most importantly, a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. These chips contain unique identifier numbers which can be read by RFID scanners at U.S. border entry points.

While the RFID chips in B.C.’s EDLs will only contain unique identifier numbers, it is possible to store other types of personal information on these chips. The technology also makes it possible to track the movements of individuals carrying driver’s licences enhanced with RFID chips.

The potential for misuse of personal information or a breach of security exists, and as other provinces consider whether they want to implement their own EDLs, there’s a need for a public discussion about those risks.

Today, Canada’s information and privacy commissioners kick-started that discussion by issuing a joint resolution outlining the steps that will need to be taken to ensure that the privacy and security of our personal information are respected if and when EDL programs are implemented. (You can also read the news release here.)

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