Report suggests ID alternatives
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Dec 09, 2002
National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council
A national identification system is one approach to strengthening identity
security, but a white paper published by a coalition of government organizations
also proposes a "confederated" system in which Americans could use multiple
identifiers for clusters of agencies and/or businesses.
This approach would enable individuals to sign on to an account once
and have access to different accounts among several entities they commonly
transact with, according to the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating
Council's (NECCC) white paper.
Agencies and companies would have to develop policies, procedures and
an interoperable technical framework to support such an arrangement. The
advantage to this system over a national ID system is that no single identifier
would follow an individual everywhere. Another advantage is that there is
no single point of failure like that in a national ID system, in which there
would be centralized control.
"An organized, confederated system would not necessarily have as its
goal to establish a single business model across all 50 states," according
to the white paper. "Rather, it could allow states to maintain their own
processes, yet establish criteria to provide consistent levels of trust
in the various credentialing systems that states have established. Determining
exactly what metrics would result in such a trust, however, would be a considerable
undertaking, but one worth investigating."
NECCC, a consortium that promotes e-government, released the identity
management white paper during its sixth annual conference in New York City
Dec. 4-6. It did not recommend one approach over the other, but said they
should be explored further.
Because of national security and identity fraud concerns, governments
are grappling with how best to issue valid and tamper-proof IDs and authenticate
identities while preserving privacy and personal liberties.
A single national system could involve storing personal information
— such as fingerprints — of every citizen in a large database and issuing
ID cards that would be used across the public and private sector.
Privacy experts contend that such a database smacks of Big Brother.
A national system has some precedence around the world, but with uneven
results, said Daniel Greenwood, who directs the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology's e-commerce architecture program and helped lead and draft
the white paper for NECCC.
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has been leading
an effort to strengthen state driver's licenses, which are considered the
de facto national ID card. Although that group doesn't advocate a national
system, it wants states to adopt minimum security standards — such as personal
data or biometric identifiers embedded in the cards — as a way to prevent
identity theft and fraud.
A coalition of companies known as the Liberty Alliance Project is developing
the framework for a confederated approach, including a network identity
and authentication sharing mechanism. The project would entail developing
business agreements among different organizations so they can mutually recognize
authentication. Such a system would help boost confidence along with e-commerce,
The group has about 45 dues-paying sponsors and another 90 affiliate
and associate members. The group is looking to collaborate with governments
and other public-sector agencies that would not be charged membership fees.