Ontario is looking at use of a "unique identifier" such as prints or eye scans to strengthen privacy and prevent fraudulent use of the new cards, part of a new electronic identity system to be introduced over the next few years.
"These people are increasingly horrifying me", an incensed federal privacy commissioner, George Radwanski, said late yesterday of the provincial government.
"Disturbing doesn't begin to cover the mindset that would think these things are desirable or necessary."
Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's privacy commissioner, said fingerprinting or retinal scans -- known as biometrics -- have been "under discussion for a while".
She said her team has told the province that "if you're even contemplating using a biometric, the standard of personal protection of privacy has to be extremely high", and that the government has agreed.
Under legislation expected this spring, the smart card program will begin by replacing each Ontario resident's OHIP identification with a new card carrying personal information in an electronic form that can be swiped to access services.