Update: see previous post – November 22, 2011 ServiceOntario Kiosk (College Park) Comprimises Privacy & Confidentiality
Five months after leaving customers in limbo, the provincial government is pulling the plug on its popular ServiceOntario kiosks, forcing people to stand in line or go online to renew licence stickers and change addresses.
The province decided to close the kiosks because it could not guarantee “foolproof” protection from fraudsters aiming to glean personal information from cards after a security breach in June prompted a suspension in service, said government services minister Harinder Takhar.
Opposition parties at Queen’s Park slammed the move, saying people will now have to spend more time in line-ups at ServiceOntario centres, or waiting weeks after applying online for renewals.
“This is definitely a step backwards,” said New Democrat MPP Jagmeet Singh (Bramalea—Gore—Malton). “They’ve dropped the ball here.”
It’s no coincidence the controversial move was announced on a busy news day with Americans at the polls in a hotly contested presidential election, Singh added.
The minority Liberal government portrayed the decision as a way to save $8.5 million in upgrade and maintenance costs, and to protect privacy. Takhar said it would cost $250,000 to remove the province’s 72 machines, which were first installed in 1996 at a cost of approximately $4 million, according to the ministry.
After a security breach at four machines in the GTA raised concerns that users’ information may have been gleaned by potential criminals from licences and debit and credit cards, the ministry reviewed the security with IBM, which maintains and operates the machines. Takhar said he remained unconvinced the machines were safe, even with a more secure chip-reading system.
“We will not bring it up unless I’m 100 per cent satisfied that the safety and the security of the people is being addressed,” he said.
Progressive Conservative MPP Rod Jackson (Barrie) said “it’s ridiculous” that it took Takhar five months to reach a decision, and accused the government of running away from trouble.
“What would be better (is) if they actually fixed the problem,” he said. “This is a service provided to people that they use.”
Ministry spokesperson John Friesen said kiosk use represented less than 3 per cent of the 46 million ServiceOntario transactions during the last fiscal year. He said the loss of kiosk service in June has not led to a “significant increase” in ServiceOntario centre line-ups: “The majority of the increase has been in online traffic.”
The kiosks enjoyed a high rate of customer satisfaction, according to a 2003 report on Ontario’s IT services: 97 per cent of 1 million surveyed customers agreed the kiosks saved time, and 94 per cent said they were easy to use.