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July 29, 2010 / J. Shaw

Uncle Sam Wants You to Have an Online ID

As our daily interactions and transactions have become increasingly “wired,” we have yet to see any truly comprehensive attempts at securing online identities. 

Our complex system of usernames and passwords is astoundingly outdated and increasingly prone to security breaches and theft. Yet, so far it has been mostly up to the individual to protect himself against various forms of identity fraud—with larger corporations taking relatively little responsibility. 

But this could change in a big way. Right now the federal government is proposing a new system being referred to as the “Identity Ecosystem”—which was highlighted in the recently-released draft paper, “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace” [NSTIC]. 

The Identity Ecosystem would allow Americans to choose to obtain a single authenticated ID for online transactions. Like a passport, this single ID could travel with them online and be used to access everything from e-mail, to online health records and banking information. Furthermore, the Identity Ecosystem would only reveal the least amount of information necessary for each transaction. 

To highlight the potential consumer benefits of such a system, the White House’s proposal uses the example of an individual filling a prescription online. Under the “smart ID card,” the pharmacy would only receive proof that the individual is over 18 and that the prescription is valid. No other information like birth date or the reason for the prescription. 

Right now the only online ID management options available to consumers are tools like OpenID and Microsoft’s U-Prove. While these systems work across a variety of popular platforms such as Google (GOOG: 484.99 ,+0.64 ,+0.13%), Yahoo (YHOO: 13.76 ,-0.11 ,-0.79%) and Blogger, they are best used for cases of low-assurance clearance (i.e., personal e-mail and social networking sites). So-called “high-assurance” sites, like banking and health services, aren’t set up to support wide-access systems; they present too much of a liability. 

MORE…    By Jay Bavisi


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