02/09/2013 15:09 EST | Updated 04/11/2013 05:12 EDT

New CareCard privacy concerns alarm B.C. watchdogs

Concerns about potential leaks and abuse of personal information have prompted B.C.’s privacy commissioner and advocacy groups to call for the provincial government to reconsider wide distribution of the new BC Services Card without more public discussion.

The new cards will replace the CareCards now held by most B.C. residents and are set to roll out in less than a week. Residents will eventually have the option of combining the cards with their drivers’ licences.

“I am recommending that government conduct a fulsome public consultation with British Columbians before the BC Services Card program proceeds to Phase 2,” Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a letter to the government Friday.

“Given the program’s profound reach and the amount and type of personal information involved, it is critical that citizens are included in the dialogue,” Denham said.

The B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association go further and say the new cards are just a bad idea.

Freedom of Information and Privacy Association spokesman Vincent Gogolek says the sharing of data among different government ministries and agencies poses problems.

“It’s your health information, possibly combined with your information related to your driver’s licence. It's no longer the BC Care Card, it’s the BC Services card and they are talking about this being your entry to a whole realm of government services," Gogolek said.

Gogolek said the government has a terrible track record for protecting personal information.

Micheal Vonn, of the BCCLA, echoed Gogolek’s concerns.

“Given the experience of other jurisdictions with identity cards, given this is unprecedented in Canada on this scale of integration, there are very significant privacy, security concerns,” Vonn told CBC News.

The new cards will be mandatory and the provincial government has said the new system is needed to combat fraud.