Ontario considers fingerprint driver’s licence

HAMILTON, Ont. (Jan. 15, 2004) — The Liberal government of Ontario is giving serious thought to incorporating biometric data such as fingerprinting, facial recognition, or retinal scans on driver’s licences.

The Hamilton Spectator has reported the Ministry of Transportation is consulting industry stakeholders about using such technology on driver’s licences in 2005 to parallel new standards being developed in the U.S. The anti-terrorist security measure may also be extended to health cards, and other ID.

In 2001 Ontario under the previous Tory government backed away from biometrics on an all-in-one ID “smart card” after privacy right groups complained.

Other provinces have discussed similar measures since 9/11. Manitoba recently cancelled its plans to issue a proposal on biometric licences. The province, which had been studying available technology since last summer, cited cost as the main reason for shying from the new system. However, officials in Manitoba admit the current system is out of date and needs to be replaced. Currently, Manitoba has a two-part driver’s licence, which includes a photo ID card issued every three years and a paper licence issued every year.

Alberta too announced a plan last year to combine facial recognition technology with its new driver’s licences. There are also discussions on how to proceed with a proposal of creating a national ID card or passport with biometrics.

In the U.S., the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently delayed implementation of fingerprint-based background checks for hazmat commercial drivers’ licences until April 2004. The plan calls for truck drivers to qualify for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) card, with a fingerprint biometric component, in order to gain access to U.S. ports and other sensitive locations.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance is currently in discussions with U.S. officials about allowing Canadian drivers to use Free and Secure Trade (FAST) credentials in place of the TWIC card, considering the background check systems for both security measures are similar.

— with files from the Hamilton Spectator

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