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Digital ID in Canada: Is it safe to use?

The digitization of identities has been teased for years, and it looks like it will soon become a reality in Canada. However, storing your most personal identifying information on a single device and allowing the government and businesses to access it requires significant care and trust. What will Canadians choose — the new and convenient digital option or old-school paper documents and passports? Let’s explore.

Digital ID in Canada: Is it safe to use?

What is a digital ID?

A digital ID is the equivalent of a personal identification or authorization card that’s stored on a device (like a phone or tablet) rather than a physical document. Many people’s daily activities require authorization or approval, so they use government-issued IDs, official documents, contracts, notarized letters, and other paperwork. Storing these and other sensitive data digitally can allow Canadians to handle official business quickly and easily.

How does a digital ID work?

A digital ID works as an alternative to your physical documents. It’s a personal electronic identifier that can be stored on a smartphone and combines multiple forms of ID into one.

According to official government guidelines, “When accessing a government service, like filing your taxes or applying for a social benefit, you would be able to select the required information from your digital wallet and share it with the appropriate government department.”

Officials assure that all your personal information is protected by Canada’s Privacy Act and that the digital ID user has full control over how and when the information is used.

The digital ID will also be able to store other forms of identification, like vaccine passes, business certificates, and health cards.

However, if you have concerns over privacy or are unsure if your elderly relatives will be able to access the technology, don’t worry — using a digital ID in Canada will be completely voluntary. Traditional documents (like passports or driver’s licenses) will still be used and accepted.

How would the digital ID improve life in Canada?

The Canadian government claims that the digital ID is a much safer and more convenient way to store your personal information than having physical documents laying around in your home because it’ll be under the protection of “strong encryption.” Their claims are yet to be confirmed, but for now, let’s explore the main benefits a digital ID will offer Canadian citizens.

Canadian businesses and the digital ID

For business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, digital IDs will make processes like business registration, tax filing, and compliance with regulatory requirements much easier. Small and medium-sized businesses will benefit from them the most because their resources are often limited — not every business can afford an in-house legal team.

Digital IDs would reduce the administrative burden, allowing businesses to focus on growth, innovation, and their customers. They would significantly reduce the paperwork for companies that require identity verification of their customers, like healthcare providers, insurance companies, or car rental businesses. Digital IDs are a reliable and quick way to fulfill various requirements, increasing customer trust and streamlining business processes.

Increased security and scam prevention

Digital IDs usually use advanced security features like biometrics and encryption, significantly reducing the risk of identity theft and fraud. For individuals, this makes online transactions safer and reduces the risks of getting scammed. For businesses, it translates into safer interactions with customers, reducing the risk of impersonation scams, financial loss, and reputational damage.

Streamlined access to government and private services

With a digital ID, Canadians would be able to access a wide range of services more conveniently and quickly. These include government services like healthcare, social benefits, and tax filing as well as private-sector services like banking and e-commerce. Using a digital ID saves time and eliminates the need for multiple forms of identification.

What are the risks of a digital ID?

The main concerns about using a digital ID are centered around having so much sensitive personal data stored in one place. Canada’s digital ID will be used in many spheres of life, from filing taxes to picking up prescription medications and buying property, which explains why some Canadians are wary of it.

Having your medical records, financial reports, bank accounts, legal history, full contact information, and other sensitive data all available on your device makes you think — what happens if you lose it? What if someone tech-savvy steals it from you? Would they be able to use it as they wish and impersonate you online?

How to protect your privacy

Ultimately, it’s up to you if you trust the government’s word. However, it’s hard not to see the convenience of having a digital ID.

While Canada’s government claims that none of the data will be used without permission, it’s something that many of us have heard before. For those wary of the program, perhaps it would be wise to wait a year or two and see how the digital ID fares in the wild before adopting it.

However, even if you’re excited about the digital ID and can’t wait to start using it, try not to let your enthusiasm override your common sense. Protecting your digital identity is vital, especially with cybercriminals always waiting on the sidelines for their victims to slip up. So make sure you take steps to secure the device you’ll be using your digital ID on and never use it — or access any of your sensitive data — on unsecured networks.

To take care of your personal data as it travels through unsecured networks, use a VPN. It will encrypt your online traffic, boosting both privacy and security. What’s more, getting a Canadian IP address may allow you to access your home content while traveling or working from another country.