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Identity Theft as a Justification for a National Identity Card

Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

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Executive Summary

Executive Summary
It has been suggested that a national identity card would help to reduce the incidence of ID theft in Canada. There are many problems with such a conclusion. Such a “universal identifier” would invariably face immense pressure towards function creep – it could become a “super-SIN”. Once in the hands of thieves, this information will aid, not impede, identity theft. There is a strong likelihood that business will not alter creditgranting systems to accommodate it. Yet, even were business and government to do so, their information practices would put National ID card data at risk – possibly increasing the prospect of identity theft. Consumer credit data will continue to be traded, this time with the added “gold” of National ID card information. A National ID card will not bring necessary legal reform, or additional funding to law enforcement agencies. Police will continue to be ineffective in controlling identity theft without increased resources and legal powers. Canadians can also not count on their privacy laws to protect them from identity theft. Finally, biometrics is a highly invasive technology that will not guarantee document integrity. Perversely, excessive trust in the technology could aid ID thieves.

There are instead many practical measures that can be taken now to combat identity theft. None of these requires the introduction of a National ID card.

In conclusion, the case has not persuasively made that a National ID Card would necessarily limit identity theft in a manner that represents an acceptable trade-off between privacy and security, or indeed in any appreciable way at all.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Denis Coderre has recently introduced the concept of the National ID card into the public debate. Minister Coderre has taken a more or less positive stance towards the need for such a card. Minister Coderre has also linked the issue of biometrics to the debate over the National ID card. Finally, Minister Coderre has, to a large extent, justified the need for a national ID card, with biometrics, due to the problem of identity theft.

The only difficulty with this logic is that it is flawed. Identity theft will not be seriously curtailed by the introduction of a National ID card. Biometrics may barely dent it and indeed has the potential to make some cases of identity theft far worse. Identity theft is a security state’s straw man for introducing invasive measures designed to reduce personal privacy.

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