[prj] Quebec plans ID database of all citizens (fwd)

Leslie Schentag (wy497@victoria.tc.ca)
Wed, 14 Apr 1999 09:46:29 -0700 (PDT)


Big Brother has come to Quebec..!

Coming soon to a province near you..


  Leslie Schentag
  Gremlin Research Consultants
  Web Site: http://firms.findlaw.com/gremlinz
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1999 10:29:32 -0400
From: "Mark A. Smith" <msmith01@flash.net>
To: Mark <msmith01@flash.net>
Subject: [prj] Quebec plans ID database of all citizens

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This From: The National Post, Thursday, April 08, 1999
http://www.nationalpost.com


Quebec plans ID database of all citizens
Privacy experts worried
http://www.nationalpost.com/home.asp?f=990408/2459343.html

By
Campbell Clark
National Post

MONTREAL - The Quebec government is planning to create a central
computer
file on all its citizens, an identification database that would include
names, photographs, and basic identifying information for every
Quebecer.

The new central database -- already being planned by a group of
government
bureaucrats, aided by a computer-systems contractor -- will replace the
myriad lists of names and addresses kept by a variety of provincial
government departments and agencies, according to Robert Perreault,
Quebec's
Citizens Relations Minister.

The system would also be used to issue a generic identification card,
although the cards would be issued on a voluntary basis --a concession
to
public opinion after widespread criticism killed proposals for a
mandatory,
multi-purpose government ID card.

Assurances that the card will be voluntary and that private information
will
be protected do not assuage the fears of some privacy experts and
consumer-protection advocates, however. They said yesterday they see the
central register as a state intrusion where no crying need has been
proven.

They also see a potential danger to the confidentiality of private
information.

Mr. Perreault said the reason for the central register is to cut the red
tape Quebecers face each time they move and are forced to advise several
agencies of their new address. He said it will also help the government
reduce fraud by those who create false identities to obtain government
services.

Marie Vallee, a privacy expert with Quebec consumer group Action Reseau
Consommateur, said it is another example of the government "trying to
kill a
fly with a bazooka." There is no demonstrated need to register millions
of
Quebecers to combat a few cases of fraud, she said.

"Will it be used for other purposes?" she asked. "And who will have
access
to this mega-file?"

After a National Assembly committee held a series of hearings into the
idea
of a generic identity card in 1997, the proposal appeared to lose steam.
The
committee recommended that any such card be issued on a voluntary basis,
but
the prospect of a central register of Quebecers had not been widely
debated.

But in early March, without announcement, the Quebec cabinet gave Mr.
Perreault a mandate to come up with a design for a "unified identity
management model." Two days later, Quebec's director of civil status, an
agency under Mr. Perreault's purview, issued a tender for a $100,000
contract for the design of the system.

The central register itself will contain each individual's name,
address,
birth date, the names of their parents, and a photograph -- the same one
used on Quebecers' driver's licences and medicare cards. It will also be
used as the source for the identity cards, which would be issued to
those
who request one and pay a fee.

The cards will likely be one of the forms of identification that
Quebecers
will be allowed to use --along with driver's licences and medicare cards
--
to identify themselves at voting polls, as required by a bill currently
winding its way through the National Assembly.

Mr. Perreault said the central-register working group was also mandated
to
consider including a microprocessor on the card, so that it can
eventually
be used for dealings with the government via the Internet or other
electronic means. That idea is "more an exploration," he said.

He said the central register will provide a single entry point for
Quebecers
changing their address, and it will also give the director of civil
status a


mandate to make sure the information is correct. The various existing
systems include errors and cases of fraudulent identities, he said.

"I'm not saying it's a generalized phenomenon, but on the margins there
are
cases of fraud."

He dismissed suggestions that the new register would represent a new
state
intrusion into citizens' private lives, arguing Quebecers are already
required to declare their identity and address to obtain a driver's
licence,
medicare card, and other services. The information is already there, but
updated piecemeal, Mr. Perreault said.

"If the question is, do we fall into Big Brother as soon as we have
electronic means to work with, I would say that in a certain sense we
are
already there," he said. "A totalitarian government could always
[misuse]
it, but in a democratic society like ours, those rules are established."

Ms. Vallee, however, wondered who in the government will have access to
the
central register, and suggested its original uses might eventually be
expanded.

She noted the current government moved in recent years to allow
government
departments to systematically obtain information from other departments
that
can be used in ways that were not originally intended.

And she raised concerns that such a government-wide system could make it
easier for people to illegally obtain confidential information.

During the 1997 National Assembly hearings, an official with Quebec's
access-to-information commission testified that a black-market trade in
private information obtained from government sources already existed.
Creating a single identifying number would make it easier for people to
illegally obtain a wide bank of information, the official warned.

"That's false," Mr. Perreault said yesterday. "That can be controlled,
with
computer systems."

Ms. Vallee said she fears proposals to use the card for electronic
dealings
with the government could lead to a slippery slope that will make the
card
effectively mandatory, because Quebecers without it would one day be
unable
to obtain some government services unless they brave prohibitively long
waits.

"When bank machine cards came out, they were just a gadget. Now, if you
don't want to have one, you're cooked."

Copyright  Southam Inc.

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