A National ID Card by Stealth? The BC Services Card

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This project will analyze the regulatory environment associated with the BC Services Card, which proposes to join the driver’s license and health care card into one super smart card. It will evaluate emergent ID card technologies, paying particular attention to the role ID card vendors play in evolving identity management frameworks.

Funded by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and headed by Dr. Kate Milberry, the project aims to better assess the impact of these cards on data protection and identity integrity not only in the province, but in Canada generally. The research will attempt to determine which industries, including the payment card industries, are the primary private sector drivers and stakeholders of ID proposals. It will investigate which vendors will be involved in the production of the new card and its associated database(s), along with the ramifications of monetizing these.

To date, efforts to get information from the government about the new card have been either ignored or met with silence. This was surprising, as the card is a large identity information management project that marries two major public services, integrating their respective databases. We therefore filed several freedom of information requests, working closely with BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. The government has returned with no responsive records, fees in the thousands of dollars and extension requests. In the case of the Ministry of Health, there has been nothing but silence.  MoH failed to respond to the first FOI request, filed in 2011 by FIPA. When FIPA complained to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC for deemed refusal, MoH responded (just two days before the hearing) with a blanket refusal of the request, invoking exemption under  the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. One day later they added cabinet confidences to the list of exemptions.

This is appears to be part of a general trend whereby governments are becoming less transparent to citizens. New research from FIPA found that non-responsive rates to FOI requests have nearly doubled over the past decade; non-responsive rates for media have increased by approximately 200%; and interest group non-responsive rates have risen by approximately 50%. In her 2010 report on timeliness of FOI responses, Privacy and Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wondered if the government was “…simply denying access or determining there were no responsive records to their requests.” source 

We are currently awaiting responses to a second FOI request made to MoH, as well as to requests  filed with ICBC, the Ministry of Citizen Services and Open Government, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer, all of whom have a hand in the BC Services Card project.  We will post those documents if and as they become available. Below is all the information we have received to date: 600 heavily redacted documents from ICBC that cover the early planning stages of the BC Services Card.

For now the BC Services Card appears stalled. Originally slated to roll out November 2012, it has now been postponed till the new  year. The website says only: “stay tuned.” The stated reason  is a labour dispute with ICBC. Yet with the quiet relocation of Chief Information Officer  Dave Nikolejsin to the Office of Environmental Assessment, the future of the BC Services Card seems uncertain.

Other resources:

Dr. Milberry’s presentation to BC Information Summit

Vincent Gogolek’s report on the project in the Huffington Post

B.C. paves way for all-in-one identity card

Statement from Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham
pdf found here (left hand column)

Is new B.C. Services Card precursor to a provincial ID card?

Privacy watchdog ‘deeply concerned’ over new BC Services Card

New BC Services Card raises privacy concerns

Biometrics and the BC Services Card

The BC Services Card and Confused Public Outreach

Smart Chip, Simple Illusions: NFC and the BC Services Card


Freedom of Information Request Documents

Notice of intent

Response Letter MoHS vers1

Response Letter MoHS vers2

ICBC F197019 Requester Report

ICBC F197019 Response letter