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The Canadian Bankers Association says Canada must create a digital identification system, potentially utilizing technology such as blockchain, biometrics and document review over a live video connection.

The association’s chief executive says moving away from a paper-based, face-to-face process toward a modern identification system of this kind is needed to “unlock the full potential” of the digital revolution that is under way.

Neil Parmenter added in his speech in Toronto today that the need for digital identification “will only grow more urgent” as Ottawa explores the possibilities of open banking, the payments system is modernized and blockchain and artificial intelligence move into “new frontiers.”

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The Department of Finance last week officially launched its public consultation on the merits of open banking, a framework that would allow consumers and businesses to permit third parties such as fintechs to access their financial data to provide innovative services.

Parmenter says the CBA is calling for a “federated” model of digital identification which would create linkages between federal and provincial systems, which hold information such as social insurance and drivers’ licences, respectively.

He says this digital identification system, which the CBA previously outlined in a white paper, could make it possible to authenticate an individual’s identity electronically using multiple digital reference points from different systems.

“Instantly verifying who someone is using multiple digital reference points is more secure than relying on a photocopy of a drivers’ licence,” Parmenter told the Economic Club of Canada. “Because this digital network is connected, yet decentralized, the risk of compromising the system is reduced by eliminating ‘honeypots’ of data that hackers tend to target.”

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