Report: Watchdog to investigate new smart cards

Report: Watchdog to investigate new smart cards

Contactless-enabled smart cards have been deployed in a wide range of contexts, including retail, public transportation, security and healthcare.

Smart cards offer a secure, convenient method for regulating access and enabling transactions. Smart cards are capable of storing a considerable amount of personal information on a built-in microchip, allowing for personalization and high-level security. Furthermore, a cardholder can use his or her smart card simply by tapping it on a contactless-enabled card reader.

In some cases, however, deployment of smart cards has not come without its share of controversy.

The Canadian province of British Columbia recently deployed a new smart card, called the CareCard, in its healthcare system. According to a recent CBC News report, a privacy watchdog now plans to investigate the new card initiative.

Darrell Evans, program director for the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, told the news provider he is concerned that the introduction of the new smart cards into the province's healthcare system may eventually lead to more sharing of sensitive personal information.

Mike de Jong, B.C. health minister, claimed that the new smart cards will, in fact, help to protect citizens' private data by reducing cases of fraud. The cards incorporate both photo identification and a security chip, he said.

De Jong added that the new smart card program may ultimately be expanded to include other government services, outside of the healthcare sector.

"I think the notion of having a card that allows citizens to access a broader suite of services from government, from the state, is an obvious next step," de Jong said. "But we're going to do this one step at a time."

Evans, however, told CBC News this attitude is exactly what concerns him. Ultimately, he said, a greater amount of data will become available to a larger number of people.

"This card isn't for empowering citizens," Evans said. "This card is for empowering others to have access to data."

The minister, however, defending the smart cards' security and privacy. They won't, he claimed, contain any actual health records. Rather, they will enable medical professionals to access important information when they need to do so.

The previous version of the B.C. CareCard was first introduced in 1989 and hasn't been changed for 20 years.