The Cost of Convenience

man handing his driver s license to the police officer

We are all getting used to the convenience of using our phones to load various loyalty cards, credit cards and debit cards. Depending on age, the uptake on this technology has been robust.

Isn’t it great that Google and Apple have graciously made these services available to us?

Now, New Brunswick has passed a law that allows your driver licence to be stored on your phone and be just as valid as the printed version. When this was first announced, everyone in NB was ectatic, and people from other provinces demanded the same convenience. And why not passports?

Then, the penny dropped.

Legal experts quickly pointed out an issue. At a traffic stop for example, you would need to hand over your phone to the police officer so they could verify the info, including taking it back to their car. By law, once you hand over your phone, you have given them permission to look at ANYTHING on your phone. There are a few workarounds to help, but most people wouldn’t have them in place. 

They also have the legal right to use any search functionality. They could search your contacts, look at your bank account info….basically anything that either didn’t have a password or had a saved password.

Think about passports for a second. Imagine at the border when they asked you what you had to declare, and how much it cost, Then imagine they started looking through your receipts, emails and credit card charges.

Back to Google Pay and Apple Pay. You can be assured they are not providing this service out of the goodness of their hearts. Collectively, they are gleaning information that is worth millions of dollars to them as they mine your data. It’s like using Google Search, but with even more privacy implications.

The point is this. All of the possibilities above have certain benefits for us. However, it’s imperative that we educate ourselves and understand the tradeoff we are making.  

It’s also somewhat amazing – if you take their statements at face value – that no one working for the Province of New Brunswick took the time to assess the implications of handing over your digital driver licence to a police officer. Whether you believe them or not, it’s a clear example that each of us needs to be vigilant and understand the implications when more and more of data is digital.

The lesson should be clear – educate yourself.  Know your data rights and protect them.  If you don’t, who will?

Ian’s Insights

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