Ottawa Planning Digital Identity Program

A federal government report says the next steps in advancing the Liberals’ digital infrastructure is to introduce a “digital identity program.”

The announcement was revealed in a government report released August 4 titled Canada’s Digital Ambition 2022, as the first reported by True North.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for government services to be “accessible and flexible in the digital age”, the report says.

“The next step to make services more convenient to access is a federal digital identity program, integrated with pre-existing provincial platforms,” it read.

“Digital identity is the electronic equivalent of a recognized proof of identity document (e.g. driver’s license or passport) and confirms that ‘you are who you say you are’ in a digital context.”

The report gives a nod to various provinces that are also moving forward with digital identity plans.

The Ontario government hopes to implement a digital identity ecosystem this fall. The province announced last year that it would create digital IDs as part of the province’s response to COVID-19 and its goal of being the “world’s most advanced digital jurisdiction.”

Privacy advocates and others, including former Tory MP Derek Sloan, worry that any sort of digital ID could lead to a Chinese-style social credit system, which rates citizens based on their trustworthiness to the state.

In response to Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s digital identity efforts, Sloan’s Ontario Party filed a petition asking the province to ban the implementation.

Central banks in Canada and elsewhere are developing digital currencies to integrate into a “digital ID” program, the petition states. It had received over 28,000 signatures by August 12.

“The dangers this new program poses to respect for civil liberties and privacy rights, and the clear opportunities for abuse of governmental authority it presents in terms of surveillance and coerced behavior, using the access to basic resources as a tool of coercion, are disturbing,” reads the petition.

“They point to a progression towards a dystopian Chinese Communist-style ‘social credit’ system.”

The petition also says some Canadians have already been coerced during the truckers’ Freedom Convoy rally, where thousands of protesters descended on Ottawa in February to protest federal COVID-19 restrictions. 19. In response, the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history and froze the bank accounts of those affected. Ontario has declared a state of emergency.

“At best, a digital ID will make your personal information and identity less private and secure,” Sloan told The Epoch Times.

“In the worst case, it can be used, as it is in communist China, to control the movement of citizens and access to basic social services. It could even be used to control what you can buy or where you can go if used in conjunction with a vaccine passport or lockdown rules as we have seen in the past.

The Alberta government, meanwhile, posted a job posting in April for an executive director of platforms to oversee services such as digital identity and digital payments.

The publication, which is no longer online, said the successful candidate would “build and manage platform services such as digital identity, digital payment, notification and engagement, data collection on the ‘user experience and content and document management’.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said plans to implement a digital ID are a “internet, urban legend.”

“Honestly, I don’t know what you’re referring to (or) what digital ID is,” he said during a Facebook Live Q&A in April, as reported. reported the Western Standard.

A survey by the Digital Identity and Authentication Council of Canada conducted in December 2020 found that 49% of Canadians are extremely or somewhat familiar with the concept of digital identity, but 88% are very or somewhat supportive of the concept.

Another 83% of respondents said they trust governments to keep personal information secure, and 76% of Canadians said they would be willing to share more personal information online if it meant a more convenient experience.

The online survey of over 1,000 Canadians was conducted by Burak Jacobson Research Partners from December 14-31, 2020.

Former privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien said digital identities could be “harmful to privacy” if poorly designed, during testimony before the Privacy Committee. Information, Privacy and Ethics of the House of Commons in June.

“It is certainly conceivable that digital ID could improve the verification process and the authentication process, allowing citizens to access services,” Therrien said, as reported by True North.

“It’s certainly possible that digital ID will make data available to many actors or actors, corporate or government, who shouldn’t have access to all of that data, but it shouldn’t be designed that way.”

The government also revealed it was working with airlines to require “digital identity documents” and biometrics like facial recognition as conditions for boarding, True North reported in May.

The government’s next steps on digital identity include developing a common and secure framework and launching public consultations, says the report, which was signed by Treasury Board President Mona Fortier and Chief Executive Officer of Information Canada Catherine Luelo.

Fortier’s mandate letter tasked her with working “towards a common and secure approach for a trusted digital identity platform to support seamless service delivery to Canadians across the country.”

About Irene J. O'Donnell

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