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Majority of Canadians support digital IDs, want control over data: DIACC survey

Saskatchewan temporarily halts digital ID plans
Majority of Canadians support digital IDs, want control over data: DIACC survey

A survey from the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) finds a significant majority of Canadians support the rollout of digital ID while seeking more control over their own data. Though the popularity is suggested in the national survey, the province of Saskatchewan will enter a period of wait-and-see for digital IDs to look at how other provinces implement it.

Most Canadians in favor of digital IDs and stronger data controls

A survey released by the DIACC says that eight-in-ten Canadians support digital IDs, while an overwhelming 91 percent want access to personal data collected by the federal and provincial governments.

The third annual nation survey by the Canadian organization for 2021 finds that 78 percent of Canadians believe it is very or somewhat important that the federal and provincial government move quickly to enable a safe and secure digital identity for all Canadians.

Similarly, 82 percent of Canadians are very or somewhat supportive of digital IDs to authenticate their identities and redistribute personal support. It is a decline from 2020 where 88 percent of Canadians said they were very or somewhat supportive of digital IDs for the same category.

Most Canadians continue to say that biometrics fall within the definition of a digital identity, with 61 percent agreeing; identical to 2020 and an increase from 2019 where 55 percent agreed.

A whopping 91 percent of Canadians say that they want access to personal data from the federal and provincial government, and 86 percent say the same about private companies.

Approximately two-thirds of those surveyed say that a collaboration between the government and the private sector is the best approach to creating a pan-Canadian digital ID framework, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more important to have a secure, trusted, privacy-enhancing digital ID for safe and secure online transactions.

DIACC president Joni Brennan says the results corroborate a survey from Edelman that shows a decline in institutional trust among Canadians. “A trusted digital ID framework needs to be designed with people at the centre. All Canadians need to be able to choose if and how they want to use their digital ID credentials. Digital ID is not intended to replace existing physical ID methods, but as an optional supplemental tool.”

Brennan says unlocking an inclusive digital economy with digital ID can rebuild trust among Canadians, enhance privacy, and demonstrate that citizens’ rights are a top priority. The DIACC says it applauds the federal government’s recent mentions of digital ID in a mandate letter by Treasury Board President Mona Fortier and in the House of Commons Finance Committee’s 2021 pre-budget recommendation.

“It’s encouraging to see recognition of the critical role that digital identity plays in enabling Canada’s economy; however, we need to see a real commitment to action if we are going to reap the benefits of Digital ID and Digital Trust in meaningful economic growth,” says Dave Nikolejsin, the DIACC’s board chair.

Province puts digital IDs on hold

The Saskatchewan government will see how other provinces implement their digital ID programs before embarking on their own, according to the CBC.

A request for proposals by the Saskatchewan government for the Saskatchewan Service Connect was closed in January 2022, placing the digital ID program on ice. It sought “a long-term partner to design, build, test, implement, roll out, and operate a level of assurance three 2 digital identity, in collaboration with the government of Saskatchewan digital partner network.”

A government spokesperson told the CBC that, “There are benefits from observing the rollout of digital ID in other provinces in Canada. We have asked officials in the Ministry of SaskBuilds and Procurement’s information technology division to contact their colleagues in other jurisdictions. We will be watching very closely to observe how their digital ID programs progress.”

Jim Reiter, the minister for SaskBuilds, said the government was working closely with the information and privacy commissioner on any issues the digital ID would cause, the CBC reports. Reiter adds that the digital ID would not be mandatory and would work to expedite access to services and be a proof of identity.

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