Saskatchewan's plan to create a high-tech driver's licence with embedded radio chips has been shelved, pending a review of the potential privacy issues involved.
The minister responsible for the province's driver licensing regime, Ken Cheveldayoff, withdrew the legislation on the licences Tuesday.
His move came after concerns were raised by Saskatchewan's Information and Privacy Commissioner, an independent office that examines how the government collects and uses information about citizens.
"When the privacy commissioner voiced his concerns and I was made aware of them, I indicated that I wanted the bill pulled so we can take the time to review his concerns," Cheveldayoff told reporters at the legislature on Tuesday.
The government announced in 2008 that it was going to create the special licences, which could be used as an alternative to passports when drivers entered the United States.
In a letter to the speaker of the legislative assembly, Gary Dickson, the privacy commissioner, said the law behind the proposed cards had significant gaps when it came to safeguarding personal information contained on the enhanced licences.
Dickson said there should be regulations requiring the licence issuer, Saskatchewan Government Insurance — a provincial Crown corporation — to adopt a variety of security measures to protect card-holders' privacy.
The commissioner said he has not seen any draft regulations to address his concerns.
Criminal could read data remotely
"This leaves the personal information of Saskatchewan residents that may be collected, used or disclosed as part of the EDL [enhanced driver's licence] program at an unacceptable level of risk," Dickson said in his letter, which was dated March 5, 2009.
Dickson said that other provinces had introduced similar identification cards and dealt with privacy issues prior to enacting legislation. He pointed out that he had been told in 2008 that a privacy impact assessment would be carried out in Saskatchewan on the new cards, but he did not know if that ever happened.
In his letter, Dickson outlined concerns about the technology involved in the new cards. He said if Saskatchewan chooses a card with a radio chip that could be read from a distance, a variety of questions arise.
"[W]hat would stop a criminal from walking through Mosaic Stadium during a Rider home game while remotely reading EDLs?" Dickson asked.
He added that travelers could also be tracked from a distance of 50 metres without their knowledge.