A Canadian think-tank has recently released a report about the situation of Digital IDs in the country and the direction in which they are headed. The simplest way to sum up the report would be that things are bad and they are bound to get worse: we’re talking “China” worse.
A Digital ID, much like a printed ID like a PAN card, Drivers’ License, Birth Certificate and so on and so forth is a way to show and prove that way to show and prove that we exist. Digital IDs are used for virtual transactions with governments, businesses and individuals as they help generate trust, just like their offline counterparts. Whenever you need to show who you are, you use a pre-existing identity from submitting your birth certificate to obtain your driver’s license to producing your school leaving certificate to apply to a university.
Soft/Virtual/Digital IDs encompass everything from social media logins to email passwords. These credentials allow users to avail themselves of digital services once identifying information is verified. Though these means of identification offer greater convenience than tangible identities, they are not secure or credible enough for high-value or high-risk situations. The need for Digital IDs was felt because tangible IDs are open to counterfeiting, loss or misplacement and cannot store “associated information”. Digital IDs are immune to counterfeiting and loss and because they have the ability to keep absorbing “associate data” their value in the virtual space is exponentially higher.
The Chinese way
The mechanics of how the Chinese have abused the system of Digital IDs to watch every citizen like a hawk is complex and partly shrouded in mystery. But the breadth and scope of their surveillance are marvellous and near perfect because the suffocating and bizarre social credit system is based on this system.
Xi’s regime has started ranking people based on their search history, bad driving, smoking in non-smoking zones, buying too many video games and posting fake news online. If a citizen is indulging in these or any other act not liked by the regime, they can slap a flight or train ban, reduce internet speed, ban you or your kids from getting into good schools, ban you from getting a good job, ban you from a good hotel and even publicly blacklist you.
Trudeau likes the Chinese way
And it seems Trudeau likes how Xi’s harnessing Digital IDs. There are reports of the Canadian Federal Government testing facial recognition technologies on millions of travellers at the Toronto Pearson Airport in 2016, and authorizing data collection from 33 million mobile devices during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Feb. 14, the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act, giving financial institutions special powers to freeze the bank accounts of those involved in the movement without court oversight to protect privacy or private property. Listen in to what John Carpay, Executive Director of the Justice Center for Constitution Freedoms has to say…
“What Canadians need today is not more unmitigated government access to private information but, instead, a renewed commitment to Charter rights and freedoms. We are on the road to Beijing, and Canadians should be apprehensive”.
Considering the recent trend of Canadian policies mirroring those of China, the new Digital ID program though overtly aiming to simplify the lives of Canadians seems to be covertly assuming control.