Just a few months after privacy concerns were cited in a pause to Saskatchewan’s digital ID program, another government official is calling for the program to continue – the province’s privacy commissioner.
Saskatchewan Privacy Commissioner Ronald J. Kruzeniski’s office issued an annual report this week in which it made the case for the development of a digital ID solution in the Canadian province. Summing up the case, Kruzeniski essentially argued that such a program would offer numerous advantages to a population that increasingly looks to online channels to perform various transactions, and he said that acting sooner rather than later will help to ensure that Saskatchewan will not ultimately be subject to digital ID programs advanced by the federal government or the private sector.
The provincial government had initially announced that it was exploring the development of a digital ID program in March of this year, but backtracked on the idea the following month. In announcing the project’s suspension, the government cited high costs as an important factor, as well as concerns about privacy. Minister Jim Reiter, who leads the SaskBuilds, project, noted that other provinces such as Ontario are already pursuing their own digital ID programs, and that Saskatchewan could learn from their successes and failures before proceeding on its own.
For the Privacy Commissioner’s part, Kruzeniski and his office’s report have at least addressed the privacy aspect of digital ID. Kruzeniski emphasized that it would have to be optional, and that the service must be subject to Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy requests. He said that users’ information should not be shared with government agencies, and that the digital ID system should minimize the amount of information shared in any transaction.
Kruzeniski also emphasized the need for a decentralized approach to the storage of user data, both to protect citizens’ privacy and to minimize the amount of information that could be compromised in a hack or database leak.
As for potential uses of the digital ID system, they would range from applying for government subsidies and licenses to making insurance claims, to booking camp sites at provincial parks, among other use cases. It could even facilitate the purchase of age-sensitive goods like alcohol.
The issue of digital ID has become politicized somewhat in recent months, with groups like the Ontario Party framing such programs as government intrusions into citizens’ privacy. The endorsement of a digital ID from Saskatchewan’s privacy commissioner may, to some extent, help to quell such concerns.