We’re paying for a high-tech Broadway show that’s themed around ‘security’, but we’re actually watching the equivalent of a catastrophic performance in a low budget community theatre. The price of admission? Only millions dollars and your privacy.
As of June 1, 2009, Canadians and Americans alike require an Enhanced Drivers License (EDL), a NEXUS card, a FAST card, a passport, or a Secure Certificate of Indian Status to cross a Canadian-American land border. In Canada, only Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Manitoba have moved ahead to develop provincial EDLs; the Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island governments have all decided not to provide these high tech, low privacy, cards to the constitutencies (Source). To apply for an EDL in a participating province, all you need to do is undergo an intensive and extensive 30 minute face-to-face interview at your provincial equivalent of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Your reward for being verbally probed? A license that includes a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag and a biometric photograph. The RFID tag includes a unique number, like your Social Insurance Number (SIN), that is transmitted to anyone with an RFID reader. These readers can be purchased off the shelf by regular consumers, and number your EDL emits is not encrypted and does not require an authentication code to be displayed on a reader. Effectively, RFID tag numbers are easier to capture than your webmail password.
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Both Ontario and Manitoba have declared their interest in EDLs. Both are running into problems.
In Ontario’s case, it appears as though there is some confusion about whether or not the province can actually deploy the licenses in time to meet the June 1, 2009 Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) deadline – after this date, Canadians will need to use either an EDL or passport to cross a land border into the US. While the Sun is reporting that the deadline won’t be met by the Ontario provincial government, and the Star is saying that Minister Bradley thinks that only “some” applicants will get the licenses in time, CTV is noting that Bradley insists that the licenses will be available in time to meet the WHTI deadline. No one totally agrees on what is going on in Ontario concerning the EDL roll-out. They can all agree, however, that EDLs are terribly expensive: whereas a passport will cost $87, and Ontario EDL will run you $115. An affordable ‘solution’ to border travel indeed…
In Manitoba, it was expected that around 100,000 Manitobans would want to get their hands on EDLs. Unfortunately, it seems like the government slightly overestimated the demand: since February 2, 2009 less than 1,500 people have applied. 24,000 have applied for passports in Manitoba. Oops.
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A few days ago I posted that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick both might be moving away from EDLs because of their costs and/or privacy issues. While the article discussed the issue was problematic (because of persistent factual errors), it appears as though the author was on target concerning New Brunswick’s concerns with the technology: EDLs will not be coming to my birthplace .
This means that both New Brunswick and Saskatchewan will not be going forward with EDLs, though Alberta. Quebec, Manitoba, Ontario, and B.C. are all going ahead with EDLs. I’ll be curious to see if the rest of the Atlantic provinces follow New Brunswick’s lead, and how this might shape the national discourse on EDLs.
There is a fairly confusing article on EDLs that was published by the Times & Transcript’s Alan Cochrane. It’s absolutely rife with inaccuracies about the technologies about EDLs, which contributes to the rampant misinformation about these identification pieces. Before I get to that, I want to note pieces of information that look interesting, though their accuracy has to be taken as questionable given the sloppy work done throughout the article.
- Apparently the New Brunswick government’s support of EDLs has ‘waned’ after receiving some report or another. While the reporter doesn’t mention the report by name, I have a suspicion that it’s the report commissioned by the Atlantic registrars of motor vehicles that was referenced in the May 9, 2008 press release of the Council of Atlantic Premiers. That report has not been disclosed to the public. (I lack anything that would substantiate or disprove the claim that New Brunswick’s interest has waned; I also don’t know what the report stated and so can’t know if it would influence the government’s position.)
- Service Nova Scotia has stated that the province is looking into EDLs, but as of yet does not have a deployment timeline. (I lack information that would substantiate or disprove this claim.)
- Manitoba is taking applications for EDLs right now, and will begin shipping them in 2 weeks. (This definitely seems on the money, and we can presume that it is accurate.)
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