Union: Make ID standards public

Concerns about proposed standards for federal employee identification cards have prompted Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, to request wider discussion of the standards before they are adopted.

Kelley urged officials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology today to publicize the proposed personal identification standards in the Federal Register before the secretary of the Commerce Department signs off on them by Feb. 25, 2005. A presidential directive has triggered an all-out push to issue secure identification cards to all federal employees and contractors as soon as possible.

But Kelley said the proposed smart cards pose potential risks for employees. The union represents about 150,000 federal employees, including more than 98,000 in the Internal Revenue Service.

Kelley questioned how employees would be protected if the smart cards are lost or stolen. She also raised questions about whether the data collected as employees used the cards to gain access to federal buildings and federal networks could be used to track employees' movements inside the buildings.

"It would be particularly objectionable if the agency tried to track visits to particular sites such as the union office, Employee Assistance Program offices and the inspector general's office," Kelley wrote to officials at NIST's Computer Security Division.

NIST officials are responsible for writing the standards for a federal employee smart card with an embedded computer chip that can be used governmentwide to gain secure access to federal buildings and computer systems.

Anticipating employee concerns, federal officials have scheduled a public meeting Jan. 19, 2005, to answer questions about the proposed identification cards. Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget's administrator for e-government and information technology, will speak at the meeting. She will be followed by two panels of speakers.

The meeting will be from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the auditorium of the Potomac Center Plaza, 550 12th St. SW, Washington, D.C. To register to attend, contact sara.caswell@nist.gov.

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