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Plan to introduce digital identification system in Sask. put on hold

A plan aimed at developing optional digital identification for Saskatchewan residents has suddenly been put on hold by the provincial government after privacy concerns were raised.

The system would be similar to Apple Wallet, but instead of storing payment information the province’s system would hold drivers licenses, health cards and grant access to online government services. However, privacy concerns were raised in the legislature.

“There’s enough people concerned about it that you know, protection of privacy is very important,” said Jim Reiter, Minister in charge of SaskBuilds.

“Mr. Speaker, people want to know who the government is working with to implement an actual mass digital ID system that will link all of our personal information to one source,” MLA for Saskatchewan Rivers Nadine Wilson said during Question Period at the Saskatchewan Legislature.

Earlier this year, the government issued a request for proposals from private IT firms, but the cost estimates ran in the millions of dollars. The NDP was still surprised the government hit the pause button despite the high costs.

“This is a project that deserves scrutiny and oversight, especially considering how long the government has been working on it and to see it cancelled all of a sudden certainly was a surprise,” NDP MLA Alena Young said.

Nadine Ness from Unified Grassroots was among those who spoke to MLAs. She uses Apple Wallet but is hesitant about a government system.

“If it was something to kind of streamline things and make things easier I'd get it, but I also get why people wouldn’t want that. I don’t want that. Personally, I would never sign up for it,” Ness said.

Several other provinces are going ahead with digital ID as early as this year. Saskatchewan said it will monitor the publics acceptance before deciding whether it too wishes to invest millions of dollars into a digital identification system.

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