Digital credentials

Digital technology is changing our economy and our society—the way we access services, work, and connect with each other. With more of our interactions taking place online than ever before, the need for efficient, interconnected, and secure digital services is growing.

Digital credentials in Canada

Canadians expect easy, secure, and trusted access to digital services. They want to control who can and—more importantly—can’t, access their digital information. Digital credentials offer Canadians the ability to confirm their identity during service transactions. Government is looking to leverage new technology to meet this need, while ensuring that trust is maintained and privacy is protected when interacting with government in Canada. As the digital credentials ecosystem evolves, the credentials could be used by other public and private sector services.

What are digital credentials?

In the physical world, your driver’s licence or health card allows you to provide information about yourself, what you can do, or what services you can access; digital credentials would be the digital equivalent of these documents. These credentials would make services faster, easier, and safer for Canadians.

During the pandemic, British Columbia (BC) used a digital version of the BC Service Card and Alberta used digital identity to help their citizens access provincial services and some federal services, like My Service Canada Account. The result was faster access to benefits and services for BC and Alberta residents without having to rely on physical documents or visit service locations in person.

What would digital credentials help me do?

As digital credentials are the electronic equivalent of physical documents that you already have, you would be able to use them during service transactions without having to show up in person or rely on partially paper-based processes, such as taking a photo or scanning important documents.

For individuals, you would be able to use digital credentials to do things like:

  • obtain social benefit (maternity leave, EI, Canadian Pension Plan)
  • file your taxes
  • access your health records
  • open a bank account
  • buy a home

For businesses, you would be able to use digital credentials to:

  • obtain business supports from governments
  • prove to your clients that you have necessary permits and qualifications
  • improve timeliness and transparency for small and medium-sized businesses when responding to regulatory requirements

Digital credentials are:

Optional: Digital credentials are completely voluntary. Other forms of physical documents, like a driver’s license or passport, would still be used.

Convenient: You would be able to access services faster using a variety of digital platforms (mobile phones, laptops, tablets, etc.).

Secure: You and your digital credentials would benefit from Canada’s strong and ever evolving cyber security protections. We work with agencies across government to monitor, detect and investigate cyber security threats for immediate action.

Private: You would be able to choose who sees your information, and what they get to see, with only the required data being disclosed. Digital credentials would keep your private information private and give you more control over your information.

Accessible: Your digital credentials would work with assistive technology and reduce challenges associated with paper forms and in-person visits. Digital credentials could also help members of marginalized communities such as the homeless, who may not have access to physical documents, to access services.

How do they work?

Digital credentials would let people and businesses access services online without having to go to a location in person, send sensitive information through mail, or remember another username and password.

You would have the option of getting the digital equivalent of your physical documents that you could store in a secure digital wallet on your personal device.

When accessing a government service, like filing your taxes or applying for a social benefit, you would be able to select the required information from your digital wallet and share it with the appropriate government department. The information you agree to share will only be used to deliver that service and will not be shared with other departments or programs, except for specifically identified purposes listed in the Privacy Act. You control when and how your information is used.

For example:

Emily, a BC resident, is having a baby soon and is applying for benefits. She will use her BC Services Card app to confirm her identity. Once her application is approved, Emily will be notified that her benefit payment has been sent directly to her bank account.

What’s next for digital credentials?

The federal government is in the planning stages of a digital credential eco-system and intends to hold consultations to make sure any systems or platforms are developed with individuals and businesses in mind, and security and privacy at the forefront of the design.

Various governments in Canada issue credentials that can be used to prove identity. The federal government is working to support mutual acceptance of credentials issued by various levels of government. For instance, you can already use your BC Services Card app or MyAlberta Digital ID to access your federal taxes online.

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