The BC government's stealth consultation on its controversial ID card program is finally underway, but it will wrap up soon.
The ID Card, known as the BC Services Card, has been rolling out since February, and it combines both the drivers license and the provincial health care card, with lots more to come. The consultation asks the public about the types of services and other cards that could be linked to the BC Services Card, but the government has said it will not accept recommendations that the program be suspended or stopped.
Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham told the government earlier this year that she wanted the government to conduct "fulsome" consultations before proceeding with any further implementation of its card program.
The government is jamming all this into a process that was announced just before the August long weekend, and which will wrap up before Christmas; including a report to be submitted to government on what people think of the card.
The government did make a few small changes to the process as a result of complaints they received to the proposed terms of the consultation, including one from the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association and the BC Civil Liberties Association (available here). For example, the government was only going to accept public input through its electronic forms. They have now consented to allow people to write in with their full views of what should be done.
And if you are concerned about the implications for our privacy and our pocketbooks, you should definitely do just that.
Feel free to use the government's online form if you don't feel like doing your own letter. It can be found here.
They have included comment boxes through which you can make your thoughts known, and you can actually scroll through the form first without having to save or complete each section.
If you get your comments in by next week, they will be put to the 36 member User Panel, who will be reporting back to government. Last week I was invited to speak to the panel, along with at least a couple of other people who would not be counted in the ranks of either government officials or potential contractors for the government.
Although I did not get a chance to talk with all the panelists, I was impressed with the dedication they appeared to be giving to the question of what should be done with the ID Card. They asked probing and informed questions and seemed to be interested in what all the speakers had to say in response.
It really is unfortunate that this group could not have been brought together five years ago, when former Commissioner Loukidelis first recommended that the government consult with British Columbians about its plans for massive data linkages. It would have been interesting to see what they would have come up with if the government had asked its citizens what they think BEFORE setting up and rolling out a multi million dollar card program.
Apparently you get to have at least a summary of your thoughts go to the panel, but only if you take a few minutes to let them know what you think of the card and the various related IT projects. BC FIPA has a few things to say about it, which you can look at here.
So do it. And make sure you do it before Wednesday, November 27. The survey will be up until the end of December but after next week those responses will only go to the government.