Here’s a story that proves that incompetence and general apathy isn’t limited to the DMV where Patty & Selma Bouvier earn their living. Starting now, Quebec motorists can offer up $51.97 above the current cost of a driver’s license to obtain what the provincial government is calling “Smart” driver’s licenses. These licenses will come equipped with an RFID chip that can be scanned remotely by US border guards to identify approaching drivers. Introduced by Quebec’s version of a DMV, the SAAQ, these chipped IDs are meant to allow Quebecers to comply with new Department of Homeland Security regulations that require government-issued identification when entering the US by land. Here’s the problem: The (highly personal) information emitted by the RFID can also be read by anyone else who, with $250 and a working knowledge of eBay, can obtain the necessary equipment. To make matters worse, no encryption or security measures were implemented on these “Smart” licenses. Needless to say, it’s an identity thief’s wet dream.
In a study conducted by the Montreal daily, La Presse, a security consultant was able to record information from several nearby licenses, all while driving aimlessly on the highway. According to La Presse: “It only takes one hidden radio to clone anyone’s license.” In the same tests, a security consultant was able to record license information from as far as 15 meters away.
In its response to criticisms that the “Smart” licenses may, just may, create some privacy issues, the SAAQ notes that it provided motorists who’ve applied for the enhancement a special slipcase for the license that blocks all transmissions. You know, except when you take it out to show a US border guard, or a liquor store clerk, or a bank—wait a minute.
In the meantime, former federal Transport Minister and current radio jockey, Jean Lapierre, suggested, in an interview with Montreal’s CJAD 800 AM on May 7, 2009, that Quebecers should apply for a Canadian passport instead, which suits the DHS just fine and doesn’t broadcast any personal information. Since a passport application costs $100, for another $48.03 over the incremental cost of a “Smart” license, you get the ability to actually take a plane somewhere too!