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Newfoundland digital ID to have 2023 launch, while Ontario lags behind

Newfoundland digital ID to have 2023 launch, while Ontario lags behind

There’s news and no-news out of Canada’s provinces on implementing digital IDs, as Newfoundland pushes ahead and Ontario stalls, according to reports by CBC and CTV.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is targeting a 2023 launch for its digital ID pilot project. Although Digital Government Minister Sarah Stooley said the project is still looking for funding, she is bullish on seeing the Atlantic province take a leadership role in Canada’s digital ID space, and confirmed that she has scheduled meetings with the federal government to consult on the introduction of digital IDs across the country.

Enthusiasm for the project is matched by concerns over potential privacy risks. While Stooley said her team has contacted the province’s privacy watchdog, information and privacy commissioner Michael Harvey emphasizes the importance of data protection.

“While the convenience of digital ID for online transactions would be significant for residents of the province,” Harvey wrote to the CBC, “if such information if such information were to be lost, improperly disclosed, or otherwise misused it could cause a great deal of harm.”

Once introduced, Newfoundland and Labrador’s digital ID program will be optional for residents.

Ontario in digital ID limbo

Having cited privacy concerns as a reason for prior delays to its digital ID program, Ontario has no answer for why the program remains stalled, says CTV News Toronto.

The project was initially slated for a late 2021 launch. When the pandemic refocused government priorities, the launch was pushed to 2022, with the Associate Ministry of Digital Government saying they needed time ensure that privacy and security were a top priority.

Now, the government has quietly dropped the reference to 2022 on its digital ID website, and gone quiet on a revised timeline. CTV’s requests for comment have been met with terse messages saying there are no updates. The government website still includes the following language:

“Digital ID is the foundation that will enable easier access to online services and make Ontario one of the world’s most digitally advanced jurisdictions… a convenient and easy identification solution that’s made with the security and encryption we need to securely perform transactions and access services online.”

Privacy experts in Ontario, however, are not all convinced the current Ontario government can run secure, effective digital ID program. “You think governments are in a great position to protect our data? It’s a joke,” said Ann Cavoukian, executive director of the Global Privacy and Security by Design Centre and former privacy commissioner for Ontario. “They would need to encrypt this data in the strongest way from end to end. It’s not going to happen in my view.”

Doubt in the trustworthiness of Ontario’s data security is warranted, in light of a November 2021 vaccine portal data breach that impacted about 360,000 people.

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