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 – October 2012

In this issue:

  • 2012 BC Informatiion Summit tackles “Government 2.0”
  • Just Rewards: Darrell Evans awarded Grace-Pépin Access to Information Award
  • OIPC to investigate government’s failure to post FOI requests after FIPA complaint
  • BC election law still has constitutional problems despite BC Court of Appeal ruling
  • Lock Down: wall of secrecy around Ministry of Health privacy breach slams door shut on freedom of information.
  • Provincial FOI performance plummets over last decade
  • Troubled integrated case management system “stable and secure” – Minister
  • FIPA + Huffington Post BC
  • FIPA at Media Democracy Days

Download the bulletin.

FIPA Bulletin – April 2012

In this issue:

  • Big Challenges ahead for Freedom of Information and Privacy
    • Government reaches a new low in FOI avoidance
    • FIPA calls for penalties when government abuses FOI process
  • FOIPPA Amendments pave way to unprecedented sharing of personal information
  • BC government abandons e-Health Act, issues Health Minister a free pass to collect personal health information

Download the bulletin.

BC FIPA and BCCLA letter to OIPC on ICBC proposal to share Facial Recognition Data with Police

The BCCLA and BC FIPA have sent a joint letter to the Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC regarding media reports that the office of the commissioner will be investigating ICBC’S proposed use of its photo database for the purposes of identifying suspects in the recent Stanley Cup riots.

In our view, it is arguable that the Freedom of Information and Protection and Privacy Act (the “Act”) does not provide for the disclosures of personal information at issue and that the deployment of facial recognition technologies raises critical questions that have yet to be assessed in light of the Act.

In our opinion, the proposed ICBC-police arrangement is an attempted end-run around the purposes of the Act and serves as a dire warning about the privacy threats of government/police “cooperation” especially given the greatly intensified data
centralization underway in every facet of government service from health care to human resources and ever-expanding surveillance and data-mining technologies that can be used to search those systems.

Many citizens have been shocked to discover themselves de facto criminal suspects, their driver license photos transformed into a mug shot database to be searched at the behest of the police. Many ordinary citizens know well that lines are being rossed and critical rights are in danger.

Read the letter (pdf).