The BC Services Card, and why you should be concerned about it

What is the BC Services Card?

It’s an ID card that combines both the drivers license and the provincial health care card.


Is that all it does? Doesn’t sound too scary to me.

Right now that is all it does. However, it is a key part of the ‘Government 2.0’ plan, which will link large amounts of personal information both inside and outside government. The government plans on using it as the principal tool for gaining access to most government services. Not only that, but they are also talking about combining it with your credit cards, transit pass and other non-government information. That is a lot of access to a lot of personal information.


It’s a government system. It should be secure, right?

Sadly no. The BC government has had lots of problems with its information management systems. In her recent report on the data breach at the Ministry of Health (one of two bodies currently linked into the BC Services Card), Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham found that the ministry had essentially no audit capability, so they had no idea who had access to health information or what they did with it. People working at the Ministry also had access to way more personal health information than they needed to do their jobs.

Maybe the government should fix the problems at the Ministry of Health before moving on grandiose plans to link a lot more of our sensitive personal information.


What do you mean when you call the BC Services Card an ‘ID card’?

The BC Services Card is the first of a number of provincial cards that will be rolled out in the next few years. BC gave the contract to a company called SecureKey, without allowing anyone else to bid. That company is also providing the federal government with ID management services, and has been given a similar untendered contract by the government of Alberta. Other provinces are expected to follow in due course.

Once these cards are rolled out in each province and linked through a single private company, this will amount to having a national ID Card.


But the BC government’s other IT projects work well, don’t they?

There have been some spectacular failures in recent years, usually with these big data linkage projects. The government is spending millions of dollars to replace the scrapped $100 million BCeSIS educations data base, and the government’s own consultants have reported on how the hundreds of millions spent on the Integrated Case Management system still haven’t produced a working system.


What do we know about the BC Services Card?

Not a lot. The government has been reluctant to provide information about the project and what it will mean for British Columbians. BC FIPA has submitted a number FOI requests about the project going back to 2011, but very little information has come out.


What does the Privacy Commissioner have to say?

After taking a look at the card program, Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she wanted the government to conduct “fulsome” consultations before proceeding with further phases of the implementation of the card. However the Card continues to be rolled out.


Can I say ‘no’ to the Card?

The ID Card is already being rolled out, but it won’t be mandatory until 2018. In the meantime, the BC Government is holding a public consultation to find out what people think.


OK, now you have me concerned. What can I do about this?

You can make your voice heard!

The government is running a consultation on the Card. You can take the
survey at and voice your specific concerns. The survey does have space for your comments.


Or write to the province directly at:

Victoria, BC V8V 9L9


Let them know that you have a problem with the latest boondoggle in the making.


Download this article (pdf).

FIPA Bulletin – June 2013

In this issue:

  • BC Election: It’s time to double down on info rights
  • BC Election Act causes confusion, chills free speech — again
  • Major data security issues bedevil the Federal Government
  • A National ID Card by Stealth?
  • Fighting for a fair deal: FIPA continues to oppose Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • FIPA is hiring! Join the team
  • Access in the Academy: FIPA to launch new ATI/FOI resource for researchers

Download the bulletin (pdf).

BC FIPA publishes “Culture of Care … or Culture of Surveillance?” a study of the Integrated Case Management System and Independent Community Services Organizations

BC FIPA today published “Culture of Care…or Culture of Surveillance?” its extensive study on the BC Government’s Integrated Case Management System (ICM) and its potential impact on independent community service organizations. “The findings of this study should sound a clear warning to government, the independent community service sector, and the general public that all is not well with the BC government’s plan for [ICM]”.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of British Columbians walk through the doors of community organizations across BC looking for help. They are people with families in crisis, individuals looking for counseling support, employment transition help or health services – to name a few. Many of these individuals provide all sorts of personal information as part of obtaining help from either community-driven services or provincial government programs. They have little knowledge of how their personal information is stored, managed, or shared, but they have a right to know that their information is handled in the most ethical and legal manner, and to withhold their personal information should they choose to do so.

– Privacy Project Steering Committee

Download the full report.

BC FIPA publishes “PIPEDA and Identity Theft: Solutions for Protecting Canadians”

In the summer of 2004, ID theft was a hot issue. Since then, it has exploded.

There has been a flurry of activity in Canada and the United States, as regulators and companies alike struggle to keep up with the rapid growth in this white collar crime. Consequently, while the research has progressed, it has been a constant struggle to keep up with the fast-breaking news events and the subsequent policy and legislative responses of governments. We have focused on providing advice and analysis on how to protect the rights of the individual, through the use of existing law, policy, standards, and management practices.

Download the report (pdf).