Industry coalition aims to clarify ID technology

As federal and state governments prepare smart card legislation, a group of companies has formed the SecureID Coalition to alleviate confusion among politicians and the public about technologies in secure electronic documents.

The coalition includes Texas Instruments, Philips Semiconductors, Infineon Technologies, Gemalto and Oberthur Card Systems. It is expected to make its first appearance today at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislators in Nashville, Tenn.

Industry organizations often muddle information on secure electronic documents because of conflicting loyalties, said Tres Wiley, director of e-documents at Texas Instruments. The organizations include a large mix of companies that frequently dumb down the information to avoid offending members, he said.

The SecureID Coalition, in contrast, has none of those inherent conflicts, he said.

The coalition hopes to have a quick effect on what it sees as an often misinformed debate on smart card technologies. One source of confusion, Wiley said, is the difference between radio frequency identification tags and contactless chips, which will be part of future generations of passports and a common ID card for government employees and contractors.

“One of the things we feel we really do need to do is to distinguish between RFID, which is essentially a tracking technology, and the kind of secured identification that the contactless smart card provides,” he said.

For example, at a recent Black Hat security conference, some people claimed that malicious hackers could clone the chips in new e-passports to construct fake documents. The Smart Card Alliance and other industry organizations refuted those claims.

Even if some lawmakers understand secure identification technologies, such unfounded claims only increase the pressure to pass legislation that sets controls on the technologies’ uses, said Neville Pattinson, director of marketing and government affairs at Gemalto.

“We need to gain the confidence of citizens as well as government,” he said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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