US rolls out proposal for authenticating identities online
Emily Badger: US rolls out proposal for authenticating identities online
22 Apr 11

On Miller-McCune this week, I walk through a new US government proposal for what’s shaping up to be a kind of ID card for the internet. The government swears the idea is benevolent — that such a system wouldn’t track users, collect data or block content — but imaginations in the US privacy community are already running wild. In part, that’s thanks to one of the proposal’s primary authoring agencies: the Department of Homeland Security. Here’s an extract from the article, for the full piece, click here.

Last Friday, the U.S. government unveiled its National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, a blueprint for the private-industry development of voluntary tools that would authenticate and consolidate your identity online. We need such a thing, the government says — in a pamphlet titled, well, “Why We Need It” — because our proliferating online passwords are inconvenient and insecure, and because last year 8.1 million adults in the U.S. suffered identity theft or fraud, at a cost of $37 billion.

The idea seems like one mandated by the moment. Increasingly, important commerce, banking and government services have migrated online, demanding ever more accounts and passwords and logins to remember.

But Amie Stepanovich, national security counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, explains that this proposal has actually been years in the making. And the history of its development suggests the concept is equal parts promising and risky — a reality hardly captured in the government’s enthusiastic 45-page rollout, complete with “Envision it!” sidebar scenarios.