British Columbia

B.C. privacy watchdog fears smart CareCards

A B.C. privacy watchdog says he plans to investigate the introduction of smart B.C. CareCards by the province's Ministry of Health.
Old Care Cards like this will soon be a thing of the past, which has a privacy advocate concerned. CBC

A B.C. privacy watchdog says he plans to investigate the introduction of smart B.C. CareCards by the province's Ministry of Health.

Darrell Evans — program director for the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association — says he's concerned the smart cards will open the door to more sharing of sensitive personal information.

The enhanced CareCards — with a photo and a security chip — will help reduce fraud, according to B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong.

De Jong said that, ideally, the smart cards could also be upgraded to include other government services.

"I think the notion of having a card that allows citizens to access a broader suite of services from government, from the state, is an obvious next step," the minister said. "But we're going to do this one step at a time."

That rationale is just what worries Evans.

"This card isn't for empowering citizens," he said. "This card is for empowering others to have access to data."

The minister says the card itself won't contain health records, but it will enable medical professionals to access them — in an emergency.

Must be renewed

But Evans said he wants to know more, such as, "how broad it's going to be, what data bases are going to exist, who will have access to information."

Evans said the smart CareCard could be the first step towards issuing a universal ID card for all government services.

The government announced Thursday that B.C. residents will be required to renew the new health cards on a regular basis, and those who don't won't be eligible for any publicly-funded health service except those required in dire emergencies.

The government said the cards will be renewed at the same time as a person's drivers' license but those under 19 won't be required to renew.

The current plastic B.C. CareCard was introduced in 1989 and hasn't been changed for 20 years.

There are concerns the current card is vulnerable to fraud because there are about 9 million cards in circulation for a population of 4.5 million.

With files from the CBC's Jeff Davies