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Quebec auto insurance portal halts face biometrics plans after ‘catastrophic’ app launch

Quebec auto insurance portal halts face biometrics plans after ‘catastrophic’ app launch

Quebec has brought plans to introduce facial authentication to its automobile insurance portal to a screeching halt, in the wake of a digital transformation campaign that leaders have called “a fiasco,” reports CTV News Montreal.

A major revamp of the website for the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) was intended to simplify online transactions. But a server overload caused traffic jams both online and at service centers, leading some to believe that the digital overhaul is moving ahead without adequate preparation.

Just last month, a facial recognition component for the SAAQclic platform received mention in the provincial budget as a project of interest. But in light of what provincial minister for the digital sector, Éric Caire, admits was a “catastrophic” initial deployment of the app, Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault has called on the auto insurance body to park its plans to add face biometrics to the equation.

“For the moment I think we have our hands full with SAAQclic and company,” Guilbault said, speaking to reporters at the National Assembly. “I would prefer that we get the first situation right before we move on to another.”

The Premiere of Quebec, François Legault, has expressed a desire to conduct a formal evaluation of SAAQ and its leadership team, citing what he called a serious lack of planning in the SAAQclic debacle.

The backlog resulting from the launch misfire caused headaches across industries. The province’s trucking association reported that the app created delays and listed certain active fleets as having been scrapped. According to Global News, SAAQ itself was forced to hire an additional 150 workers to deal with large lineups caused by the digital disruption.

“I have asked that Quebecers no longer wait outside,” Guilbault tweeted in March, in response to gridlock at service stations.

For their part, through their union, SAAQ workers said they raised concerns about the SAAQclic project not being ready for deployment, but were ignored by superiors.

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