Today’s Globe and Mail brought news of Passport Canada’s decision to abruptly cancel its online passport application system. The online service allowed Canadians to fill out their passport application online, and was launched four years ago as a progressive example of e-government.
The reasons for removing the service was a lack of ‘convenience’ for passport applicants, and passwords were cited as examples of that inconvenience. The system is being replaced by online forms that don’t require a user account and password to be used. Presumably a user will now need to fill in the form on a web page, then print and bring the form into a Passport Canada office for processing.
Of course, Passport Canada has been under attack by the Canadian privacy commissioner and had an embarrassing security breach in late 2007. The claim that the service was inconvenient due to the need for users to remember passwords is a bit suspicious — by this logic, we’d have wholesale dismantling of online government services and the requisite hiring frenzy to replace them with counter representatives…
A better explanation is that the agency clearly has decided that the risks of making passport data available on the web has exceeded the organization’s tolerance levels. And good for them. Until they are able to deliver highly secured system, or reduce the amount of data accessible online, the passport application should be removed.