Statement of Opposition to Bill 85, Photo Card Act, 2008

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Statement of Opposition to Bill 85, Photo Card Act, 2008, a website hosted by the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, is currently accepting signatures on a Statement of Opposition to Bill 85, Photo Card Act, 2008.  Bill 85 will allow for the creation of enhanced driver's licences and photo cards which raises privacy and civil liberties concerns as described below.       


Please sign this Statement of Opposition to Bill 85, Photo Card Act, 2008, currently in Third Reading before the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

To be submitted to the Legislative Assembly the week of November 17, 2008

Statement of Opposition to Ontario's Bill 85, Photo Card Act, 2008

We the undersigned organizations and individuals declare our opposition to the passage of Bill 85, Photo Card Act, 2008, as amended by the Standing Committee on General Government and presented at Third Reading, for the following reasons:

Potential privacy invasion

* The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security has insisted, over strong opposition by civil libertarians and the smartcard industry, that a notoriously insecure radio frequency identification (RFID) tag be embedded in the 'enhanced' version of the proposed photo cards and drivers licenses.
* Such RFID tags contain no security or authentication features, cannot be turned off, and are designed to be read at distances of more than 10m using inexpensive and commercially available devices.  Canada's Privacy Commissioners have noted that the inclusion of such tags in the proposed cards and licenses could create a significant threat of "surreptitious location tracking" of individuals. see:
* There is also reason for further concern that the proposed 'enhanced' cards with RFID  technology represent a significant step toward a national ID card scheme along the lines of the controversial REAL ID in the U.S., paving the way for greater mass population surveillance.
* The protective measures proposed by the Government (e.g. a protective sleeve) are demonstrably inadequate and constitute an unacceptable privacy risk.
* The Ontario Government's claim that the unique number stored on the RFID is a meaningless number that does not pose a significant risk for individual identification is false and misleading.
* The use of biometric facial recognition screening of all card applicants creates a significant risk of 'false matches', which could lead to innocent individuals being unjustly treated as fraud suspects. It also risks "function creep" to other biometric identification applications (e.g. use in CCTV applications).
* The Bill unnecessarily expands the range of personal information collected by the Government and permits the excessive circulation of such information among other public bodies.

Inadequate consideration of criticism and constructive proposals

* While the Government is aware of the many serious concerns about the privacy threatening aspects of the enhanced photo card initiative, and has been offered specific proposals for improving Bill 85, it has failed to amend the Bill in a manner that will sufficiently safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of Ontarians.
* In particular, the valuable recommendations of Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner to the Standing Committee on General Government have been largely ignored. see:   

Inadequate demonstration of need

* It remains to be seen whether the new Obama administration will maintain the entry requirements imposed by the Bush Administration, including those that have prompted Bill 85.  Accordingly, there may be no long-term utility to creating enhanced drivers licenses (EDLs) for Ontarians at this time.
* Current Canadian passports remain valid for border crossing and are a more secure and versatile alternative than the proposed EDL. The existing NEXUS program, while not without its problems, is also available to frequent border crossers at a comparable cost.

Excessive cost

* While the government has not issued any cost estimates for the new EDL program, it would appear that establishing a new identification scheme incorporating significant technological developments will be costly.  These funds could be better spent on other ways of expediting border crossing, such as reducing passport prices and wait times.

Inadequate public consultation

* Bill 85 raises complex issues of identification, privacy, security, national sovereignty and the relationship between citizens and their governments. To date, the government has failed to sufficiently inform Ontarians about the many complex issues raised by this Bill.  As a result, the vigorous public debate that should take place around legislation of this nature has not occurred.

While the Bill does have worthy goals and some good features, it should not be passed by the Assembly without wider public consultation and revisions that address the concerns indicated above.

For an updated list of signatories, see the Statement of Opposition posted in the Discussion area of the website

To sign onto this Statement:

1. Reply to the Statement in the Discussion area of the website.

Organizations should list themselves as:
[Organization name] [Name of signing officer] [position of signing officer]
Individuals should list themselves as:
   [Name] [Occupation] [Organization name for affiliation only, if relevant]

2. Contact a statement organizer (see list below), with the information above, who will then post this information the Discussion area of the website. website administrators, will periodically consolidate these Statement replies into the posted Statement.

The Statement will be presented at a press conference at the Legislature tentatively scheduled for Tuesday Nov 18.

Statement Organizers

Chris Parsons,
Graeme Norton,
Joseph Ferenbok,
Karen Smith,
Krista Boa,
Roch Tassé,
Stuart Trew,
Darrell Evans,
Philippa Lawson,
Adam Molnar,
Valerie Steeves,
Andrew Clement,

Other things you might do to support this:

1.  Let your friends and colleagues know about this and encourage them to sign on..
2.  Let the Minister responsible for this Bill, Jim Bradley, know what you think of Bill 85:
Hon James J. Bradley     
Minister of Transportation
77 Wellesley St W, 3rd Flr, Ferguson Block
Toronto ON M7A 1Z8
Tel   416-327-9200
Fax  416-327-9188
Toll Free 1-800-268-4686
TTY  1-866-471-8929
3. Join the Facebook group, Ontarians Concerned With 'Enhanced' Drivers Licenses,

Thank you.


Hello, I've been alerted that the link at the top of this post is broken.   If you are looking for the site, you can access it here:

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Privacy advocates across Canada have been struggling to prevent the Ontario provincial government from passing legislation that will see radio identifiers and biometric data inserted into future Ontarian drivers licenses. In spite of their efforts to raise the government’s awareness of the privacy dangers accompanying the proposed licenses, it appears as though their work may been in vain: Bill 85 is now in its final reading, and is widely expected to be passed on November 17th, or shortly thereafter, when the reading continues. 

Ontario, and the rest of Canada, is being forced into including radio and biometric features in future drivers licenses by the United States government. As a consequence of the U.S. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all Canadians and Americans who cross into the U.S. at a land border with just a driver license will be required to present an Enhanced Drivers License (EDL) as of June 1, 2009. While the radio ‘feature’ is disturbing in its own right, insofar as it emits a unique identifier whenever brought into range of a reader, I want to focus on the biometric features of these cards, why they raise human rights and civil liberties concerns, and the risk of function creep associated with the biometric facets of EDLs. 

WHTI-Mandated Biometrics 

The EDLs that Canadians and Americans will need to enter the U.S. include a picture of a driver’s face that can be analyzed against an American-Canadian facial database. To enroll in the database, individuals must first have their images captured, after which the computer system converts the image to a biometric template that is stored in a shared American-Canadian database. Next, the biometric template is used to authenticate a person’s identity, ensuring that the biometric data that is provided recalls the precise template for the individual in question. Finally, and arguably the most concerning, the system performs an identification process, where the biometric data is compared to all of the records held in the database. This final stage allows for mass analysis of images in the database against incomplete facial templates, such as those derived from security cameras…. 

Current Issues with the Proposed Biometrics 

Several issues arise when citizens provide their biometric information to central government agencies. To begin, there is the matter that biometric authentication relies on a statistical pattern recognition technology. We do not live in Jack Bauer’s nightmare world of 24, where computers accurately and easily identify faces against government databases; in the real world there is a likelihood that images will be misidentified. Such misidentifications can lead to an inability to move internationally, and given the ‘ease’ of removing oneself from the American and Canadian ‘no-fly’ lists it is likely that any immobility imposed by mistaken biometric associations will be long-term conditions. Inviting the possibility of such immobility is an affront to Canada’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which mandates that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country” — the biometrics, as proposed, may deny Americans who have come to visit Canada from reentering their own nation, or prevent Canadians from enjoying their right of international movement. Regardless of America’s hesitance to sign the Declaration, Canada and her governments should attend to their obligations and resist the licensing changes on behalf of both Americans and Canadians. 

In addition, there are concerns that the biometric proposals would fly in the face of privacy protections offered by Ontario’s Privacy and Information Commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian. In her open letter to the Hon. D. Tsubouchi on April 5, 2001 she warned that, “…there must be no ability to compare biometric images from one data with biometric images from other databases or reproductions of the biometric not obtained from the individual.”… 

Finally, we live in a world where identity theft is becoming more sophisticated, more harmful, and more common. Were a person to successfully enroll in the biometric-program associated with the drivers license using another person’s identity, then the thief would have effectively stolen another person’s face for the purposes of computer-algorithm authentication….

Function Creep

In the case of the American-mandated drivers licenses, there is a considerable worry of function creep that could ensue after they are distributed to the public. Interpol has recently announced that they want to begin using a facial recognition database to catch suspects by using a facial recognition system at borders, and various law enforcement agencies in Canada and the United States have similarly expressed an interest in this mode of discovering and identifying suspects. Imagine how much safer society might be; by using a massive government-sponsored facial database it would be far easier to identify dangerous elements in society! 

While this might, initially, sound like a positive thing there are (at least) two associated dangers with this kind of function creep. First, any such use of the biometric data for these purposes would exceed the intent that the data was collected for — citizens should always be notified, and be required to give their consent, when their biometric data might be used for either private or public purposes. Second, and perhaps of even greater concern, biometric analyses are not wholly accurate. Accuracy rates plummet when less than ideal images are used in facial comparisons — the images taken from a security camera, for example, provide poor templates to search against the database. Searching the drivers license database with poor templates would risk implicating a great number of people as ‘suspects’ in a crime, based on poorly constructed computer-algorithms. The prospect of being a suspect on the basis of a computer foul-up is a less than heartening thought to the innocent.

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Thanks for posting this reply M. Spector.  The author of the material you have quoted is one of the Statement of Opposition organizers.