Smart Cities Need User-Centric Digital ID to be Built on Foundational Principles


Will Sidewalk Labs turn a large portion of Toronto’s lakeshore into a surveillance “smart city” or will the principles of transparency, accountability, and inclusive innovation shape the emerging waterfront?

This is a topic of much debate, heightened by Sidewalk Labs’ recent release of its Digital Innovation Appendix. This addition to the project’s Innovation & Development Plan states that the majority of digitally enabled services and systems will be purchased from third parties – including the user data they have access to. 

This raises significant questions.

There is a BIG difference, between transparent consent driven digital ID systems – where users provide explicit consent for specific data collection and use – and covert digital ID models where  data is captured and shared without users’ knowledge or consent. 

Privacy by Design Principles (led by Anne Cavoukian, Ontario’s former Privacy Commissioner) have helped by shaping digital best practices in Canada and around the world. This approach, along with user consent and transparency, are among DIACC’s main principles. Inclusivity is another key principle – the DIACC believes that secure, privacy-enhancing, and empowering digital ID should be available to all. 

  • DIACC firmly believes in user-centred digital ID – designed to prioritize and require user choice, control and consent regarding access to collect and manage data. As Sidewalk Labs looks to move forward in their work in Waterfront Toronto, we reiterate the importance of these principles as foundational to the empowerment of a digital society that works for all Canadians. 

Joni Brennan
President, Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada