The benefits of a digital ID ecosystem will only be realised if adequate privacy protections are put in place. That is the view of data privacy authorities in Canada who are lobbying Government and stakeholders to take action to protect user and citizen privacy as technology around digitalising ID continues to improve while coinciding with physical ID documents.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s mission is to protect and advocate privacy rights for individuals, businesses and federal institutions, ensuring compliance with the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act was introduced to oversee the information-handling practices of federal government and agencies, and the private sector. Related to this privacy act, one consideration of the AI Act is also to ensure that use of artificial intelligence in upcoming technologies does not violate data privacy or facilitate identity theft.

While digital identity is yielding huge economic benefit in Canada, as in most wealthy nations around the world, it must be designed or operate in a manner that upholds security and privacy to instil confidence in the process of verifying and confirming someone’s identity.

Philippe Dufresne, Privacy Commissioner of Canada said: “The development and implementation of a digital ID ecosystem is a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate how innovation and privacy protection can coexist”.

In the America and Canada, many vendors and organisations can be accredited to the evolution of digital ID including Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada, NEC Corporation, Daon, ForgeRock and Biometrics Institute. On 3-4 October 2023, we will be bringing our stakeholders another edition of Identity Week America, based in Washington D.C. 

In a national survey undertaken by the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC), 91% of Canadians agreed that control over their personal data by provincial and federal government was critical, and 86% of respondents want private organisations to be accountable over data privacy regulations. 80% of participants indicated a desire for a secure and interlinked  digital ID ecosystem, encompasses private sector parties, who stand to play a growing role as issuers and consumers of digital identity information, and the public sector that oversees private sector and modernising digital government services.

DIACC president Joni Brennan commented: “A trusted pan-Canadian digital identity framework is essential to digital economic prosperity. While there is some progress on recognising the importance of digital ID, Canada is still at a stage where more work must be done on the policy side to ensure a truly digital economy”.

The resolution of Canada’s Federal, Provincial and Territorial Privacy Commissioners and Ombud concedes that the long-term benefit of secure digital identity lies with protecting privacy rights for Canadians. The economic interest in digital ID must not come at an unacceptable cost such as, the wrongful collection of personal information that is not consented; increased risk of discrimination; heightened risk of identity theft or fraud for the individual.

In short, the ecosystem should abide by regulations including to provide a privacy impact assessment to an oversight body in the design, development and provision stages of a new digital identity system and the privacy implications should be communicated clearly to the user. Only necessary personal information pertaining to an individual must be collected for the purpose of assessing and verifying identity and if an individual opts out of sharing data to access public services, alternative options should be offered.