In my role as senior advisor for digital identity for the Government of Canada, I have the opportunity to think long and hard about digital identity in many ways: our policies, our strategies, and what our outcomes should be in terms of serving Canadians in a fair and equitable way.
This might sound like a rather abstract undertaking - we as public servants are often criticized for deliberating in an ivory tower, but in reality it is a difficult and humbling effort that doesn’t yield concrete results in the short term.
What is Good ID? That is a very difficult question to answer objectively, so let’s have a look at the subjective factors on how I might answer that question:
Firstly, as an individual. Being a member of a fortunate demographic, I need to keep reminding myself that I am looking through the lens of many biases - many of which are ingrained in my subconscious without me being aware.
Secondly, as an employee of a government institution. My job is to uphold the public interest and the values we hold as a society, but I need to remember that this does not mean preserving the status quo, however comfortable that might be.
Thirdly, as a citizen of a country (Canada). I am proud to be a Canadian, but I need to acknowledge that the cost of building our country, which was borne by others without recompense, and the process of reconciliation is far from finished.
Over the years (or decades), I have witnessed 'identity management' evolve from a program and IT-centric technical discipline that was mostly concerned with technical and administrative controls to a more modern 'digital identity' approach, focused on those things that help improve the human condition - better usability, more inclusivity, and a greater respect for human rights.
The companion disciplines of security and privacy have also evolved - from protecting silos to adapting to the dynamic and ubiquitous cyber security environment, where everything is connected, blurring the lines between physical and digital, and blurring the lines between political boundaries and the boundaries of our own digital selves.
As the world is changing, it is difficult to answer the question of Good ID either objectively or subjectively, but we can start answering the question collectively by taking part in open discussions and debates, sharing our ideas and perspectives, however imperfect they may be.
In Canada, we are starting down that collective journey of defining Good ID. We are hard at work at developing the Pan-Canadian Trust Framework, which will enable our jurisdictions to trust each others' digital identity systems in a way that no single jurisdiction has primacy over another.
We are also working on the digital complement of our Charter and Rights and Freedoms. The introduction of the Digital Charter sets out to a build a foundation of trust that Good ID can be built upon. The introduction to the Charter (excerpted below) binds together the different perspectives of digital identity, cyber security, and privacy that together can yield Good ID:
In this digital world, Canadians must be able to trust that their privacy is protected, that their data will not be misused, and that companies operating in this space communicate in a simple and straightforward manner with their users.
In closing, the question of 'What is Good ID?' is still yet to be answered.
But I am optimistic that together, looking at our own individual biases, having constructive dialogues with others, and committing to tackle the issues collectively, we can make for a better world and to realize Good ID.