Canada border license plan raises privacy concerns

Tue Feb 5, 2008 7:15pm EST
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada's top privacy officials said on Tuesday they have concerns about plans by several provinces to use enhanced drivers licenses to meet U.S. border security plans.

Any personal information collected for the licenses should be stored within Canada, and the process -- including how U.S. officials use the information -- subject to oversight, the provincial and federal officials said.

British Columbia is about to become the first Canadian province to test the high-tech licenses, which are designed to be used as an alternative to a passport for Canadians driving into the United States.

The Pacific coast province, which is working jointly with neighboring Washington state, says the licenses are needed by people who routinely cross the border in both directions for short business trips or to visit friends or go shopping.

At the end of January the United States began requiring either a passport or other government proof of citizenship at the border. It plans to require a passport for all drivers -- including Americans -- who enter from Canada and Mexico by land by June 2009.

Canada has tighter personal privacy laws than the United States, and the privacy commissioners meeting in Victoria, British Columbia, said they were concern how U.S. officials will receive and use the personal information held in the high-tech licenses.

British Columbia officials said they were aware of the privacy concerns in developing their plans, which are being reviewed by U.S. border security officials.

(Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Rob Wilson)