Anti-fraud capabilities are touted as a major component of the proposed BC Services Card. While the government is almost certainly overstating the issue of fraud, the political rhetoric around fraud doesn’t inherently mean that proposed anti-fraud mechanisms will be similarly overstated. Indeed, many of the Services Card’s suggested changes could be helpful in limiting the issuance of fraudulent identity documents; adding a card holder’s photo, an expiry date, and anti-counterfeiting technologies to new medical CareCards could be quite helpful in ascertaining, and addressing, fraud levels. Unfortunately, the biometric systems that will also be linked to the Services Cards are unlikely to significantly defray fraud.
In this post I continue my analysis of the BC Services Card, this time with a focus on the cards’ integration with biometric analysis technologies. I begin by giving a primer on the origins of biometric analysis for identity documents in BC, and then move to outline how the government asserts that the biometric analyses should work. I then explain why adopting biometric identifiers matters: why don’t they tend to work? what is at stake in their inclusion? I conclude by (re)suggesting some entirely reasonable security processes that might defray fraud without needing the cards’ proposed biometric properties.
For the past several years I’ve had the privilege of working with excellent colleagues, Rob Wipond and Kevin McArthur, in opposing how Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) systems are deployed in BC. It’s been a long slog, and taken a long time, and led to an awful lot of writing, but after a favourable decision by the BC Privacy Commissioner about the technology (short: it’s permissible, in limited circumstances, so long as local police don’t upload innocent license plates snapped by the cameras, and confirm the validity of algorithmically identified guilty plates) it looked like the tides had turned.
And then we learned that the Commissioner’s decision wouldn’t necessarily apply to the RCMP. In response, Vincent Gogolek of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association wrote piece about the limits of the BC Commissioner’s mandate, titled “It Takes Two To Kill Illegal Police Licence Surveillance.” His argument was that stopping the worst surveillance practices linked with ALPR would require ruling by the provincial and federal privacy commissioners. We also learned that some provincial police forces – which fell under the purview of the BC Commissioner – were refusing to comply with the Commissioner’s decision. This latter issue led Wipond to publishing an article titled “So it’s illegal surveillance, so what?”