It’s efficient, speeding up both government interactions and business transactions. It’s safe, protecting sensitive personal information. And it’s convenient, integrating seamlessly into our daily lives. But despite all these benefits, one question remains: What is digital identity?
To put it simply, digital ID is a way to verify who we are online securely, in a manner that offers data protection and safeguards our personal information.
In practice, digital identity is an extension of current physical ID documents such as driver’s licences, passports and bank cards. But it offers individuals more privacy and control over how their information is used and shared, while at the same time eliminating threats associated with physical ID documents, such as theft and counterfeiting. It would allow individuals to securely verify their identities when making transactions online, similar to how they present their ID for verification in many day-to-day activities currently — but with an enhanced level of data protection.
Digital ID: Blending trusted and soft identities
Anytime you need to prove who you are — from presenting your driver’s licence to open a new bank account, accessing government services or logging into your email — you are using a pre-existing identity.
Generally, Canadians are familiar with the primary ways of sharing identifying documents. Trusted identities represent identification that is issued by an authentic body, such as a passport or a government ID. While these forms of identification are highly credible, they are also prone to counterfeiting or loss. Often, they aren’t designed to store associated data; this limits their use in a digital world.
Soft identities, on the other hand, represent a more fluid type of identification. Encompassing everything from social media logins to email passwords, these credentials allow users to gain access to digital services through the verification of identifying information. While these means of identification offer greater convenience than physical identities, they aren’t secure or credible enough for use in situations where high value or risk are present.
The goal of digital ID is to reconcile the benefits of both trusted and soft identities offering convenience as well as data protection. The ideal solution would put the user in control of how their personal information is used by blending the authenticity and security of trusted identities with the flexibility and the convenience of soft identities, creating credentials suited to a digital-based economy.
Imagine a world where your digital ID is verified and authenticated, and subsequently allows you to access government and other services that require a higher level of security, trust and authentication.
The challenge of digital ID
Of course, these changes won’t happen overnight. Privacy concerns will need to be addressed and trust will need to be built before the technology achieves widespread adoption. A convenient user experience and the affiliation of a trusted brand will play a key role in assuaging these worries.
However, there are many organizations that we already trust to handle our sensitive data. And there is a lot that can be learned from them. The financial infrastructure that we as consumers rely on every day is a great example of this.
The opportunities of digital ID
Digital IDs would offer considerable opportunities upon implementation. This includes their ability to be used across a range of devices anytime, anywhere, as well as their ability to provide users with greater levels of control over their own information. Best of all, the ubiquity of these identities will lead to a simple, consistent experience for all Canadians. We explore a few possible uses of digital ID here.
While much still needs to be done, the future of digital ID remains promising. With the right implementation strategy, digital ID is sure to help fulfil the potential of Canada’s digital economy.