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U.S. proposes creating an ‘identity ecosystem’

Tyler Metzger

As the Internet grows, so does the amount of sensitive data floating around. Day after day, hundreds of thousands of usernames, passwords, dates of birth and yes, even credit card numbers drift around somewhere on this crazy thing we call “the Internet.” And as those numbers grow, so does the risk of that data falling into the wrong hands.

U.S. proposes creating an 'identity ecosystem'

So the U.S. government, the ol’ watchdogs they are, wants to improve the security of your online information by creating an “identity ecosystem” through the use of personal identifiers. In a draft released June 25, 2010, the government proposed that Internet users create their own personal digital certificate or identity card to prove who they are before they complete an online transaction. The identifiers would be offered to consumers by online vendors.

Now hold on; put your tea party signs down: The plan is voluntary, so it could be that only a few people opt in. But seeing as identity theft affects about 12 percent of U.S. citizens, something like this might be a good idea. Oh, and it’s still in beta, with this message board allowing citizens to voice their comments and concerns. (So far, they’ve been mostly negative).

The plan’s official name is the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, and it was developed with input from business leaders, privacy advocates and government officials. One of the guy’s on the team is Howard Schmidt, the Cyber Coordinator for the White House.

“[The] Identity Ecosystem [would allow] individuals and organizations to complete online transactions with confidence, trusting the identities of each other and the identities of the infrastructure that the transaction runs on,” Schmidt said in a White House press release.

Schmidt said the plan was one of the responses to President’s Obama’s Cyberspace Policy Review, which determined (not surprisingly) that citizens want to feel safe and secure as they conduct their ever-growing daily activities online.

One thing a digital identity card would do is decrease the need to juggle multiple usernames and passwords needed for several online services. The system would also let individuals control how much private information they want to reveal when they are required to authenticate themselves online.

Opponents of the system fear it would make it easier for governments to keep a closer eye on them. But hey, what’s worse? Getting your ID stolen and having your bank accounts depleted, or some cubicle Joe in New Jersey working for the Fed seeing how much you just put on your card, which by the way, already happens?

See related: Implantable credit card RFID chips: convenient, but creepy, ‘Contactless’ credit cards spark concerns for data privacy, Your voice can be your PIN or password, Pay online with extra security: New password technology

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