Saskatchewan lays out roadmap for potential digital ID | #socialmedia


Proponents would have to demonstrate that photos can match SGI’s facial verification database, according to RFP documents.

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The Saskatchewan government is looking into whether it should adopt digital ID for residents, a measure the province says will make accessing services easier.

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However, some have raised privacy concerns with the technology — fears that were recently allayed by Jim Reiter, the minister responsible for SaskBuilds and Procurement.

He said the digital ID won’t be mandatory after the issue was raised earlier this week at the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention in Regina.

“Obviously we realize we live in uncertain times and people are concerned about their privacy, rightly so,” Reiter told delegates.

“That’s why the Privacy Commissioner is engaged and will continue to be engaged all along every step of the way with this.”

According to government documents obtained by Postmedia, the government is aiming to launch the service in 2023 for use with provincial services should it decide to move forward.

The province is currently in the process of selecting a vendor to potentially initiate digital ID, which is meant to replace the need for physical ID cards.

Users would log-in with their cellphone or laptop camera. The service would check for “liveliness” through facial recognition software to prove someone’s identity.

People would be able to register for services conveniently, according to the government, rather than having to go to an office in-person or wait for a mailed-in PIN.

“One of the things in government we hear is complaints in delays of signing up for government programs,” Reiter said. “You’ve all experienced sitting on hold waiting for a call back and waiting for someone to talk to you.The intent of this is to merely expedite that process so we’re moving more online as technology improves.”

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SaskBuilds said in a statement it could not provide the cost of rolling out the service because the province is reviewing vendor applications.

According to RFP documents, the selected vendor would work with SGI for facial verification, though how this is achieved is still under exploration.

The province is considering two options. In one scenario, SGI would receive a photo and then match that photo against its database. SGI has its own facial verification software called Cognitec.

The second option would see the proponent pass a “facial blueprint” to SGI. It would then install its own facial verification software behind the SGI firewall.

This facial verification would be run against the SGI database, and the photo would not leave the user’s device.

The province said it’s open to other options, but added any option must mitigate privacy and security risks.

The documents say SGI is the owner of the province’s facial verification database, covering roughly 93 per cent of the population.

SGI has this database because people must have their photo taken when receiving a driver’s licence or ID card.

The documents say that not everyone will sign up for digital ID, adding that certain people in the population may need help navigating the system.

This includes newcomers, seniors, people with disabilities and limited experience with technology, as well as those in rural communities.

Once ready, it appears the service could be integrated with a digital third-party wallet.

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Should digital ID be implemented, the province is aiming to expand it beyond Saskatchewan, potentially with other provincial and federal government services. There’s no timeframe for when this expansion would happen.

Province gauges public opinion

According to government slides obtained by Postmedia, Saskatchewan held two town halls and has polled residents on implementing digital ID.

The slides say the province understands people in Saskatchewan are less likely to share information online over privacy concerns.

It stated education and communication campaigns are needed for “discussing benefits and allaying fears.”

The government hired Insightrix to poll residents’ comfort on digital ID.

There were 802 responses from March 17 to 22, 2021. Demographics were weighed to reflect the population. No margin of error was reported in the poll.

It found 41 per cent of respondents were somewhat or extremely familiar with the service, and 54 per cent said they were interested in learning more.

It stated 53 per cent of respondents were somewhat supportive of the concept of digital ID and establishing a framework. Twenty-one per cent reported they were very supportive.

Forty-two per cent said they were somewhat comfortable with photo ID verification, and 25 per cent said they were extremely comfortable.

As well, 42 per cent stated they would like the government to partner with the private sector when developing the service. Twenty-nine per cent answered “not sure.”

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Eighty-five per cent of respondents said they trust health-care providers in keeping their personal information secure, and 75 per cent trust government agencies in doing so.

However, only 18 per cent reported they trust social media sites in keeping personal information secure.

jsimes@postmedia.com 

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