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Digital ID in Canada: Is it safe to use?

The digitization of identities has been teased for years, and it’s starting to become a reality for some canadians. Allowing an entity access to our most personal identifying information requires a lot of trust. It seems like Ontario may be on the cusp of introducing nationwide digital IDs. What does this mean for the Canadian ID holders in Ontario?

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 as a physical document. A lot of daily activities require authorization or approval for items with an ID of some kind. When that identification data is stored digitally, it can be applied with ease and convenience.

When will the digital ID be released in Ontario, and is it mandatory?

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, has recently been attempting to introduce a form of digital ID for its citizens. The local government has a goal of making Ontario “one of the world’s most digitally advanced jurisdictions,” and one of the first steps to making that goal a reality is instating digital identifications. Originally set for release in 2021, the deadline has since been delayed until 2022. Using the digital ID will be completely voluntary.

How the digital ID works

A digital ID is an electronic identifier that can be used in place of a physical card or document and can be stored on a mobile device. The digital ID created by the Ontario government will act like a composite of different forms of ID.

Ontario officials have stressed that the digital ID isn’t a tracking tool and will never use data without the user’s permission, while also stating that none of the data will be stored in a government database. The digital ID could also store other forms of identification: vaccine passes, business certificates, and health cards to name a few.

What are the benefits of the digital ID?

Having a digital ID in a digitally-developed environment is convenient for anyone living to a modern standard. Contactless transactions are quickly becoming the norm for a lot of retailers, and many items require identification to approve the purchase. Using the same device to provide contactless payment, alongside identification, is certainly a useful, contributing factor to obtaining a digital ID.

No longer will you have to root around in old documents hunting for a specific piece of information. The local government claims that the digital ID is a much safer and more convenient way to store your personal information than physical documentation, as it is under the protection of ‘strong encryption’.

What are the risks of a digital ID?

The main concerns for the Ontario digital ID are centered around having so much identifying data centralized at one point. The full list of what the Ontario digital ID is capable of helps shed light on why some Ontarians are wary of the ID. Here are some of the things the ID could eventually facilitate:

  • Opening bank accounts.
  • Purchase vehicles and properties.
  • Picking up prescription medication.
  • Applying for government loans or grants.
  • Filing taxes.
  • Conducting employee background checks.
  • Verifying customer identities without need of a physical presence.

With the digital ID having this much sensitive information localized on one ID app, it’s no wonder that some are being cautious. What would happen if a tech-savvy criminal got a hold of your device?

How to protect your privacy

Ultimately, it’s up to you if you trust a government’s word. While many of the world’s leading bodies haven’t done much to earn the trust of their people, it’s hard not to see the convenience of having a digital ID.

While the Ontario government claims that none of the data will be used without permission, it’s a song 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 yourselft.

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