This page is maintained by the Identity Technology Working Group (ITWG), a group of students, staff and faculty at the University of Toronto. Our goal is to ensure that, as new identity technologies are being implemented, the rights of individuals and groups are respected and that we retain control over our digital identities.

While our main focus of action is local, its context is much broader. A host of questionable technologies -- often employing smart cards -- are introduced to raise efficiency of administrations throughout society for tracking and managing people. This technology is not just for banking or electronic money, but is positioned to become a central component of our digital life: the identity computer, small enough that you can be required to wear it, all the time.

Do you want to have a say in who you are?

The UofT administration has moved in this direction with the recent introduction of a new student/library card that combines many identity technologies, and, potentially, links them together: photo, digitized signature, bar code, magnetic stripe, computer chip. The goal is to effectively identify individuals in all kinds of electronic transactions to assign privileges accordingly and to create a database that can be used in not yet specified ways in the future.

While these new technologies have a significant potential to facilitate our handling of the electronic infrastructure, they are most often introduced without the involvement of users whose digital identity is being established. This holds true for the implementation of the new student/library card here at UofT. Thus users interests, as far as they are different from those of administrational bodies, are not adequately recognized. This is a serious flaw that we want to change.

But, nothing is inevitable if you're prepared to do something!

Current activities:

Reviewing the Card, part II:
Smart Card Review Committee of the University of Toronto has issued its report on the employment of the TCard on Campus. Unfortunately, it has not been posted on the web. The recognition that the employment of the card violates of the University's privacy policy is a direct outcome of the ITWG's activities. Unfortuntately, beyond this very basic insight, the report leaves much to be desired.

Read our Response to the Report of the Smart Card Review Committee. (Februray 2000).

Policy Development:
We are engaged in developing privacy policies that reflect the new challenges of advanced card technologies. See and comment on the revised privacy policy of the Hart House at UofT (also available as .pdf). This could well serve as a model for similar policies.

Humanistic Property:
This is a concept developed by Steve Mann who argues that certain ID card administrators have been known to secretly keep copies of pictures of people they take when they make ID cards. Some of these organizations are also involved in trafficking in such stolen property.

The best way to prevent soul theft and likeness piracy is to require anyone wanting to take your picture to sign an agreement that limits what they can do with your picture. See

A recently drafted Humanistic Property License Agreement has been successfully used by people obtaining library cards at the Robarts library at the University of Toronto. The Robarts version of the Humanistic Property License Agreement can be found here.

Reviewing the Card:
The University is undertaking a review of the smart card project. In addition to serving as a library card, the smart card was also used in 1998-99 as a student card (T-card) for all new students. The Committee (chaired by Ian Orchard, Vice-Provost, Students) will recommend on the future scope and nature of the smart card. The committee is soliciting submissions. This is your chance to make yourself heard. If you have concerns about the new card or its implementation, get in contact with us, or send your submission directly to Ian Orchard.

SGS is preparing a presentation to the committee. Read about it here.

We find that the mandate is overly narrow and is likely not to address many issues. In our first letter to the committee, we pointed this out and included the areas the committee should include in its review.

James Hoc: Those floundering 'smart cards (Varsity, Thursday, March 11, 1999)
Andrew Clement: "Smart" Cards on Campus: Social choices in the formative development of identity technologies (Bulletin, Monday, April 26, 1999)

Past activities: Open Forum

Questioning the Technology:
Open Forum on the University of Toronto "Smart" Card

Read the background information
Read the press release

Read press on the forum itself:
Students Wonder: How Smart? (Wired News, 2.11.1998) By Marlene Blanshay

In an open letter, Stephen Pender, President of the Graduate Students' Union, requested answers to pressing questions which were raised at the Open Forum.


There is plenty of information about smart cards on-line:

Here are some links to smart card developers, early adopters, and their critics.
Here is some in-depth research on the socially problematic aspects of smart cards
Here is a collection of articles, mostly critical, that shed light on the dubious aspects of this technology. (Archive maintained by the Electronic Frontier Canada)

These lists are, by no means, comprehensive, please drop us a note if you have more material to add.

(Nice Sounding) Privacy Policies at UofT:

University of Toronto Policy on Access to Information and Protection of Privacy

For further information, interest in working with us, please get in touch with us. We appreciate feedback and welcome collaborators.
Via e-mail:
phone: James Hoch (GSU) 978-2391

Last updated: Friday, April 23, 1999

University of Toronto |||| site maintained by FS