Expanded digitization and a legal change will make it easier for Ontarians to get a digital identity card

Expanded digitization and a legal change will make it easier for Ontarians to get a digital identity card.

Last year the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MLTLTC) launched a digital ID program for Ontario residents who suffer from a mental illness or physical disability. The program has already been running for nine months and is being expanded to include members of the LGBTQ and Indigenous communities.

The program is administered by the Multiple Liability Service for Persons (LINDO), a non-profit company created by the Ministry of Health to assist people with disabilities. LINDO’s program, which is similar to a passport or U.S. ID card, allows people with disabilities to obtain and carry a digital identification card.

Privacy rights and advocacy groups that have studied digital ID programs note that while the LINDO program is a promising start, more can be done to make sure everyone in Ontario has a chance to access it.

“Since the 1970s, British Columbia has been at the forefront of digital identity cards,” says Justin Fung, an associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia. “They have a really impressive program. Not everyone is lucky enough to be born and live in BC. There is often a stigma about what [digital ID] means. Not just for vulnerable populations but for everyone.”

The B.C. government ran a pilot project for a digital ID program in 2006, and said all residents in that province would be able to get a digital ID in 2007. The delay was due to “notability … and … accreditation of the program by the Canada Revenue Agency,” according to the province’s Facebook post.

The LINDO program is designed to replace people’s cards and credit cards. It also includes security features such as facial recognition and “power of attorney” permission for those using the digital ID. Like other Canadian programs, the key features of the LINDO digital ID are user-nominated passwords that are reused across the LINDO network, and active auditing of user data.

Dr. Maurice Potvin, the President and CEO of LINDO, emphasizes that the LINDO digital ID is a trusted ID because it is “owned and operated by and operated exclusively by our members.”

Potvin added that the LINDO digital ID card is also “faster and simpler than other forms of ID.”

Once the Ontario LINDO program is up and running, everyone will be able to access the LINDO ID program. Individuals who would like to get the card can purchase it through financial institutions such as Desjardins, Scotia, Scotiabank, and HSBC.

But some advocacy groups point out that current income tax legislation allows those who qualify for a temporary medical exemption to take their LINDO ID as their permanent ID, for example.

“This means that if a person is temporarily injured on the job and is not allowed to work for an extended period of time, then at the end of the period they can still claim their LINDO ID as their permanent ID. This is very concerning,” says Fung.

Other privacy advocates warn that not enough consideration has been given to the implications that digital IDs could have on people’s lives.

“If someone spends time on the net, some potential employers may look through that,” says Caolan Jenkins, the digital initiatives counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA). “Other examples include immigration processes or how people can access benefits. These issues should be addressed by the government and we don’t see that happening.”

Jenkins added that the CCLA is in discussions with the MLTLTC and the provincial Privacy Commissioner about the proposed expansion of the LINDO program to LGBTQ and Indigenous communities. “We want to make sure that decisions are made in a way that protects rights to privacy and does not hinder access to justice,” he said.

However, the CCLA warns that the government’s expansion plans could be stymied by privacy concerns in the short-term.

“In the short-term, we can expect privacy advocates to do everything they can to prevent this expansion,” Jenkins said.

Read the full story and see other photos and stories from the introduction to the program here.

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