What a year!

Looking back on 2019, there has been no shortage of activity in the digital identity and digital transformation space. 

It has been a year of data breaches and heightened privacy concerns, leading to significant regulatory debate and stakeholder engagement on these issues. 

Among some of the topics that have dominated the conversation include: 

  • Big Tech and Data Privacy
  • Digital Transformation within Governments
  • Toughening Data Laws
  • A Booming Biometrics Market 
  • Digital Driver’s Licenses 

IdentityNORTH is the platform to collaboratively discover and explore these big questions, innovations, and ideas that are shaping the digital economy and driving digital transformation in Canada, and around the world. 

Below, a look at the top digital identity trends and big conversations we saw in 2019. 

Big Tech & Data Privacy

Ever since Facebook’s data-sharing practices came under scrutiny following reporting of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, there are mounting fears of violations of privacy with the Big Tech giants (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google). With the wealth of personal and sensitive information out there, how can individuals be assured that their data is properly protected? 

A recent Amnesty International poll conducted by YouGov discovered that seven out of ten people want governments to do more to regulate Big Tech, and are worried about how tech companies collect and use their personal data. 

Within the U.S. federal government, there has been conversation around placing some regulatory guardrails around Big Tech companies, as many lawmakers believe they have become too large and powerful, often unwilling or unable to self-regulate. 

Bottom line: citizens are demanding more, and policymakers are taking note. 

Governments are Adapting to the Changing Times 

In the global phenomenon of overhauling government processes, countries from Australia to Malaysia have been ramping up their efforts to accelerate their digital transformation. For instance, the Australian city of New South Wales’ new Beyond Digital strategy concentrates on the priorities of  strategic direction, customer-centricity, and improved front-line technology. 

Governments around the world are leveraging digital ID capabilities, for instance, China recently launched a blockchain-based smart city identification system. Cities nationwide can apply for their own city identification code, which can be used to connect and share data between cities. 

Bottom line: in the digital age, governments are harnessing digital technologies to provide services more efficiently, and an overall frictionless user experience for their citizens. 

Toughening Data Laws 

We have witnessed a large shift in the data privacy landscape, with numerous jurisdictions laying down the law (literally). 

In the United States, far-reaching impacts are expected from the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 when it takes effect on January 1, 2020. It will afford California residents with significant new protections, including the right to know what personal data is being collected about them (reporting data breaches became mandatory in Canada in 2018).

The re-elected Liberal government intends to prioritize strengthening Canada’s privacy laws, including enforcing new and larger fines for violations. 

Bottom line: tougher data privacy laws are here, and we expect to see more changes ahead, as large companies such as Microsoft are throwing their support behind such laws. 

A Booming Biometrics Market

In 2019, a significant increase in the use of biometrics across all sectors was evident, with the global biometric market expected to top USD 50 billion by 2024, according to research from Global Market Insights. From biometric facial recognition systems at airport security checkpoints, to contactless biometric payment cards, there are now various alternative ways of confirming one’s identity. 

There are also concerns that such practices have become intrusive, in countries such as China. For instance, Chinese citizens registering for new mobile-phone services will now be required to scan their faces to verify their identities. 

Bottom line: biometric authentication is convenient, yet privacy issues remain a concern. As we develop these solutions, it is important to factor privacy into the equation. 

Digital Driver’s Licenses are picking up speed 

Perhaps the most common form of identification, driver’s licenses are moving from the wallet to the smartphone, with digital driver’s license programs currently in development in twelve U.S. states. 

In Colorado, the new mobile app myColorado affords residents secure and convenient access to state services, anytime and anywhere. The app’s newest digital ID feature enables one to create an electronic version of their Colorado driver’s license or state ID card. 

“There is a lot of trust involved in accepting a license, and because it is so widely accepted, there is a lot of fraud in driver’s licenses and government-issued ID,” explained Scott Vien, Director of Business Development at Get Group NA, during his session at the 2019 IdentityNORTH Eastern Workshop. “If done correctly, in an interoperable and standardized way, mobile driver’s licenses can solve a lot of the problems that we have never been able to do in the physical world.”

Bottom line: digital driver’s licenses offer a convenient method for authentication, yet it must be more than just presenting a picture of a license on a phone, as the importance of trust and interoperability must also be taken into account. 

Looking ahead to 2020

The increasing prevalence of technologies such as AI-powered deepfakes, ransomware, Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G have been said to signify that protecting one’s data is going to become a whole lot more difficult. 

The challenges may be increasing, and the future may appear bleak, yet the opportunities are immense. 

In Canada, we are in a unique position due to our emphasis on public and private sector collaboration, and IdentityNORTH is the place to tackle these problems, together. Because when it comes to helping to shape Canada’s digital future, we all need to have a seat at the table. 

To continue the conversation and further our collaboration in this area, join us at the IdentityNORTH Ottawa Symposium in Ottawa on April 16th, 2020.