In an age where we are constantly having to adjust to new technologies that are often touted as “time saving” and “convenient”, such new technologies can also put you at risk for identity theft.
Such is the case with the new, ‘enhanced’ drivers licence that B.C. is currently testing via 521 guinea pigs who willingly signed up for the right to try it out. A reader emailed a link to a recent story detailing the risks. The reason for such an enhancement was to accommodate the American border entry requirements, in lieu of having a passport. The licences contain an RFID chip- radio frequency identification technology that uses radio waves to store and retrieve your personal information. A “reading” device picks up the information contained on your card , through those radio-waves, allegedly facilitating a faster entry to the US.
The information on the licence is encrypted, however security experts now say that they have been able to obtain personal information from individuals who carry passports that contain the same chip. Although Canadian passports have yet to include this chip, many countries overseas use the RFID chip within the document. This opens the possibility that anyone who is able to obtain or create a reader could access your information from a distance via the use of an antennae, and Canadas Privacy Commissioner is concerned about the repercussions.
When this technology was introduced to Japan via their passport system, it was claimed that the radio frequency encryption was unbreakable, however, the story states that it only took two weeks for someone to figure out a way to access the system.
In BC, the licences contain a “security sleeve” that allegedly prevents illegal readers from scanning the card, which is only as good as the hacker who overcomes it. They are also keeping all the information stored on them in Canada, not the US – so they claim.
None of these assurances mean anything in the end. There will always be someone smarter than the person who designed it to break into it, and both the provincial and Canadian governments have outsourced information storage and billing to American companies in the past. The initiative must be taken by the consumer, and each of us as individuals to ensure the right choices are made in securing our personal information. I blogged recently about a contracted Canada Post outlet wanting to scan my identification, and this was followed shortly thereafter with a warning from the privacy commissioner to not let retailers scan your identification, or photocopy it.
A good majority of us have become far too complacent with our information – and it shows. Identity theft is on the rise, and it can ruin your life. Credit rating trashed, debts owed that we didn’t incur, police reports and endlessly trying to prove who you are for years are the tragic results. We hand out sensitive information all the time without realising it: contest entries, rental applications for cars and apartments, store memberships, etc etc, and most often you don’t question why they need this information or if it is even legal to ask for it. We assume companies will keep our information safe, but this is often not remotely true.
To help you make the right choices, here is an identity theft checklist, to protect your personal information and keep it secure, from the office of the privacy commissioner. As well, pay attention to the following :
A full index of fact sheets from the Privacy Commissioner can be accessed at http://www.privcom.gc.ca/fs-fi/index_e.asp