Several Canadian provincial jurisdictions have instituted ‘enhanced’ driver’s licence cards at the urging of both the Canadian federal government and the U.S. government, which will accept the licences as valid ID for land-based border crossing purposes.

But privacy groups are warning that the new licences, based on ‘contactless’ smart card technology, represent a dangerous risk to the privacy of those who carry them.

The licences contain a unique identifying number for each license holder which, when scanned, gives access to all the same information that a passport contains. That’s supposed to make it easier and faster for border guards to varify a person’s identity.

However, privacy advocates insist that, since the RFID-equipped cards can be read from up to 4.5 m / 15 ft. away, that they could easily be scanned by crooks without the licence holders even knowing.

Privacy watchdogs say the cards should at least be equipped with an on-off switch or a protective sheath that would block casual scanning.

The most recent development in the situation is the decision by the Province of Saskatchewan not to go ahead with enhanced licences. The province’s own study of the new licences concluded that the cost of the new cards and scanners outweighs the benefits of the scheme.

The Province of Alberta has already ruled out implementing smart licences, for a number of reasons.

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