12 September 2013

#fridayflash: for your information

Ontario Ministry of Transportation

September 13, 2019

Version française suit ci-dessous


Please find enclosed your Vehicle Licence Renewal labels. In accordance with the Highway Traffic Act, you are required to affix the plate renewal label to the rear licence plate on your vehicle, and the verification label to your vehicle ownership permit. Please see the diagrams on the reverse side of this letter for information on how to affix the labels correctly.

You are receiving these labels and this letter in accordance with the International Security Act. The provincial Ministry of Transportation, in compliance with Canadian federal regulations, has obtained proof from the National Security Agency of the United States of America that you have made no efforts to sell or otherwise relinquish ownership of your vehicle in the last three months. Therefore, since your licence plate renewal is due within the next six weeks, the Ministry has taken the following steps to ensure you remain in compliance:
  • your odometer readings have been obtained from the commercial garage which services your vehicle for oil changes and tune-ups;
  • your insurance information has been verified with your vehicle insurance provider;
  • your local police force have confirmed there are no outstanding infractions on your driving record;
  • the necessary licence renewal fees have been charged to your credit card.
Beyond affixing the labels as stated above, we require no further actions or information from you at this time.

If in fact you will cease to be the owner of this vehicle within the next six weeks, for any reason, you are required to return the renewal stickers to the Ministry, using the enclosed return envelope. Your renewal fee will be reimbursed, less reprocessing charges. Please fill out and return the reprocessing form included in the return envelope.

Please note that under the International Security Act you are hereby notified that any electronic transmissions regarding your vehicle, including, but not limited to, any telephone calls, SMS ("text") messages, e-mails, fax transmissions, or any documentation transmitted via the internet may be reviewed by the National Security Agency of the United States of America, and that per the articles of the Act copies will be sent to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Information need not be directly addressed to the Ministry to be collected.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Ministry using the information on our web site. The web site address is listed above the label diagrams on the reverse side of this letter.

Ontario's roads and highways — yours to discover


Check the "letter" date — yes this is fiction. But if even half of what's been leaked by Snowden is accurate, near as I can tell this fictional security legislation could pass into law tomorrow, and a respectable chunk of the infrastructure would already be in place. There would be a lot of legislation to pass, given that it would be a multilateral agreement, but technically it could be done — assuming internet infrastructure stays the same as it is now.


  1. The final note is wonderfully sarcastic. There's something entertaining about the way you present their intrusions acting like national DRM.

    What made you feel the ending note was necessary? The ideology behind the piece seemed apparent to me. Did you think it wouldn't come through?

    1. Why? Because James Frey had to apologise on Oprah for what should have been bleeding obvious was a fictional memoir to anyone with the reading level to comprehend it. Because of what happened when Orson Welles performed War of the Worlds as a radio play. Because a British man got arrested in LA for tweeting he was going to "destroy" the USA, when if you read two tweets back you'd know he meant he was going party really, really hard.

      Basically, because while the intended audience will get it, I have no faith in the unintended audience. Also because I write enough bureaucratic stuff that the fictional letter is actually pretty close to how Government of Ontario technical writers compose, and I didn't want to get accused of impersonating the government when the intent was to write science fiction satire.

      Remember what happened here when we hosted the G20 a few years ago. I've been a lot more paranoid since then.

    2. There is a lot of paranoia to your response, which is always distressing coming from a writer I respect. But the majority of your note isn't saying this is false - it's a mission statement for the satire I'd just read. That's really what I was curious about.

  2. Brilliant bit of commentary! And yes, I've had an Orson Welles moment when I began my first serial, even with a future datestamp at the top. So I understood the desire for a disclaimer.

    If you want to leave a message for the government, please leave a message at the dialtone…

  3. Of course it's fiction! Because even if all of this information is being collected by all of these different agencies (which I have no doubt it is) there's no way in hell they would do something this useful with it!

    Audit you because you talked about an under-the-table job via text message? Sure! Send you a fine because you told someone you were speeding to get to the appointment via e-mail? Of course! Renew your vehicle registration for you? No way in hell!

    1. What an amazing point about this data security mess. I think you're totally right.

  4. Very nicely written Katherine.

    I find this kind of thing quite scary, and I am never surprised by what information a government collects concerning its populace, I tend to see sinister intentions and ulterior motives behind many things the governments do and say.

  5. Hmm. This didn't read like fiction to me. I thought the tone of the letter was very believable and just the kind of thing I'd expect to see in the next few years.

    1. I really do think it's feasible. Those who change their own oil or otherwise are "outside the system" will still be able to use a current-style process, but it will become more and more difficult for them until they cave in and join the herd.

    2. That's why I found this really rather scary.

  6. Nicely done contemporary mundane dystopian satire.

  7. Wouldn't surprise me in the least that all this is already being collected.

    Now why can't I renew my library card online??? I can do almost anything else.

  8. What a scary thought this is, and what an intrusion into one's life.

    Oh but wait, aren't they already doing this? ^_^

  9. I'm with all of the people who are scared, yet at the same time I feel this sort of thing could easily be happening by 2019. Well written and timely.

  10. I agree with Beverly. If they're going to collect data from me, the least they could do is fill out the forms for me too when I have to renew my license.


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