Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

Canada's Privacy Commissioner's News Release on Enhanced Drivers' Licenses

News Release

Enhanced driver’s licences concern Canada’s privacy guardians

Federal-Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Information and Privacy Commissioners and Ombudsmen

VICTORIA, February 5, 2008 – Plans to consider or implement enhanced driver’s licences (EDL) in several Canadian provinces have prompted federal, provincial and territorial privacy guardians to express their concerns about the privacy and security risks of the EDL program.

The information and privacy commissioners and ombudsmen today issued a joint resolution outlining the steps that will need to be taken to ensure the privacy and security of any Canadian’s personal information accessed as part of EDL programs.  The statement is as follows:

The US government is encouraging the development of alternative requirements in order to prove identity and citizenship, as part of the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). 

Canadian citizens already have access to a well-established, highly-secure travel identification document in the form of the Canadian passport, but some may want an alternative.

On January 14, 2008, the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada entered into a memorandum of understanding respecting the issuance of an EDL to be used by Canadian citizens looking to enter the United States.  The Government of Ontario has indicated its interest in a similar program.

Canada’s privacy commissioners, as part of their role to comment on programs that have an impact on individual privacy rights, express their significant concerns about privacy and security aspects of EDL programs.

No EDL project should proceed on a permanent basis unless the personal information of participating drivers remains in Canada.

There must be meaningful and independent oversight of how the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (a unit of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) receives and uses the personal information of Canadians.

This must include regular reporting of oversight activities and corrective measures to the Government of Canada and to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Furthermore, the Commissioners continue to be concerned by the potential threat to privacy embodied by RFID technology, which may:

  • permit the surreptitious location tracking of individuals carrying an EDL; and
  • not encrypt or otherwise protect the unique identifying number assigned to the holder of the EDL and would not protect any other personal information stored on the RFID.

Finally, Canada’s privacy guardians call on the Government of Canada and participating provinces and territories to take steps to ensure the security of personal information stored on the RFID tags embedded in enhanced driver’s licences by ensuring that:

  • robust privacy and security are built into all aspects of EDL projects, including by conducting thorough privacy impact assessments and threat risk assessments at the outset;
  • their EDL programs comply with applicable local privacy legislation; and
  • they consult early and meaningfully with their privacy commissioner or other responsible privacy oversight official on all aspects of any contemplated EDL program.

Ontario’s Commissioner, Ann Cavoukian, has said “I urge the Government of Canada to securely provide citizenship information, upon request, to a province or territory for the purposes of an EDL program, and thus avoid the costs of a cumbersome and highly duplicative process being imposed upon the provinces and territories.”

To contact federal, provincial or territorial officials for further comment:

Office of Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Phone: Colin McKay  (613) 995-0103

Office of Frank Work, Information and Privacy Commissioner
Phone: (780) 422-6860

British Columbia
Office of David Loukidelis, Information and Privacy Commissioner Phone: Maria Dupuis (250) 387-0777

Office of Irene A. Hamilton, Ombudsman
Phone: (204) 982-9130

New Brunswick
Office of Bernard Richard, Ombudsman
Phone: (506) 453-2789

Newfoundland and Labrador
Office of Ed Ring, Information and Privacy Commissioner
Phone: (709) 729-6309

Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Office of Elaine Keenan-Bengts, Information and Privacy Commissioner
Phone: (867) 669-0976

Nova Scotia
Office of Dulcie McCallum, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Review Officer
Phone: (902) 424-4684

Office of Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner
Phone: (416) 326-3333

Prince Edward Island
Office of Karen A. Rose, Information and Privacy Commissioner
Phone: (902) 368-4099

Office of Jacques Saint-Laurent, President, Commission d'accès à l'information
Phone: (418) 528-7741

Office of R. Gary Dickson, Information and Privacy Commissioner
Phone: (306) 787-8350

Office of Tracy-Anne McPhee, Ombudsman and Information and Privacy Commissioner
Phone: (867) 667-8468

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