As the pandemic swept across the globe in 2020, the world became even more digitally integrated. Businesses navigated remote work situations, consumers ordered more goods online, and network security became increasingly vital by the day.
One digital concept that has been kicked around for decades, digital ID, began to come to fruition in Ontario during 2021. As the efforts to implement and proliferate the technology saw setbacks, the state of its existence and effectiveness have come into question. So, what exactly is going on with digital ID in Canada right now? Let’s dive into the details.
What Is Digital ID?
In its simplest form, digital ID is a verified form of identification that can be stored on a digital device. The benefits of this technology are obvious – if you have ever had to root around for your birth certificate, passport, or other old document to apply for a job, or if you have ever lost your driver’s license, you can certainly relate. Digital ID would attempt to streamline and modernize the idea of identification by allowing people to carry a digital record of their certificates, records, and official documents with them at all times. During the pandemic, this technology became increasingly attractive as a simple way to show vaccination status. Several countries already offer comprehensive digital ID to their citizens at low cost.
What Is Going On?
The digital ID program was set to fully launch in Ontario in the fall of 2021. However, as we have seen happen many times in the past two years, things have been postponed to an unnamed date this year. The provincial government attributes the delay in implementation to the focusing of funds on the health pass verification app that has been used to help businesses streamline the vaccine requirement process.
As the vaccine requirement for entry into public business was lifted on March 1, one might assume that the government can now turn its attention to the development of Digital ID. It is unclear if and when Ontario will fully adopt digital ID as a commonplace requirement, and the government has not issued firm guidance. There have been numerous meetings between government officials and telecom and cybersecurity professionals over the past year to discuss privacy protection and potential hazards of digital ID.
As of now, all digital ID programs are completely voluntary and not widely disseminated. While the benefits of consolidating documents into a single access point may make life easier in the future, critics say this also creates a serious risk. Implementing a digital ID system will require the utmost cybersecurity measures, as an individual’s most important identification materials will thus exist in digital form on a trackable device. The jury is still out on whether the added convenience will be outweighed by the increased risk of phishing and data compromise by identity thieves. Time will tell. For now, the digital ID program is still in its infancy, but we can imagine a not-too-distant future where it eventually takes hold.
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