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Government-convened panel pitches strong collaboration to protect Canadian’s digital IDs

Government-convened panel pitches strong collaboration to protect Canadian’s digital IDs

Canada is making fairly tentative advances in digital identity applications, according to a panel of experts, but it is well-positioned to make gains thanks to an active and collaborative ecosystem of market participants.

This view was presented in a webinar hosted by Canada’s School of Public Service (CSPS) and the Center for International Governance Innovation, ‘Digital Identity as a New Policy Frontier’. The webinar featured a panel brought together to share the thoughts of people influencing digital identity policy in Canada with public servants.

Participants included Joni Brennan of the Digital Identity Association of Canada (DIACC), Service New Brunswick Digital Lab and Digital ID Programs Director Colleen Boldon, Debbie Gamble of payment system Interac, and SecureKey Chief Identity Officer Andre Boysen, who also serves on the boards at DIACC and the Kantara Initiative.  Frances Bilodeau of Science and Economic Development Canada moderated the discussion. Each of the participants are connected to DIACC in some way.

With both governments and financial institutions trusted by over 80 percent of Canadians to protect their personal data, as of 2019 data, Brennan says the country is well-positioned to build digital identity-based solutions and services. That could generate an increase in GDP of three to six percent, but would require informing Canadians about “what data exists about them” and giving people, governments and businesses tools to manage and share that information.

Boldon reviewed New Brunswick’s MyID digital identity system, which is built in line with DIACC’s Pan-Canadian Trust Framework and establishes a trusted government source for identity data. Setting up this system required policy formulation around roles and responsibilities, and Boldon emphasizes the importance of collaboration to make credentials both accepted and trusted.

The importance of replacing legacy analog ways of onboarding people for services, and doing so with higher levels of assurance than those provided by social networks, was explained in Gamble’s presentation.

Boysen explained the evolution of SecureKey Concierge, which was used by Canada’s Federal Government, to Government Sign-In by Verified.Me, which is offered through Interac, and how it uses a triple-blind architecture to protect user privacy. He suggests that the key challenges for the market to address are how to prevent the oversharing of data, such as with credential issuers, document integrity, and interoperability. These challenges, and the collaborative approach being taken by the Canadian government to address them, have been illustrated by the processes the government has used to ensure pandemic benefits are directed to the right bank account, Boysen says.

All considered, Canada is behind in some specific ways, like implementations that give people the ability to share trusted digital identities through mobile devices, according to Brennan. In terms of creating an ecosystem of public and private sector partners that can protect privacy, Canada is ahead of the international curve, in Brennan’s assessment, thanks to the vision of stakeholders like DIACC’s 90-some member organizations.

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