A new role for government in ID proofing

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The Better Identity Coalition, a recently formed trade group that represents banks, insurers, credit card issuers and others with skin in the e-commerce game, is looking to government to take a more authoritative role in digital identity.

The group was formed in the wake of the Equifax breach, which saw the theft of data on 147 million consumers. Jeremy Grant, the former head of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, serves as its executive director.

In a policy blueprint, the group is looking to government to help change the way individual establish and maintain online identity. In essence, the document is an admission that industry's efforts to secure accounts and identities via passwords and secret questions are out of date.

"Bottom line: adversaries have caught up with America’s first generation approaches to digital identity, in a way that inhibits commerce, fuels fraud and erodes trust. Identity solutions need to evolve and improve," the document states. "Government -- as the entity that conveys identity authoritatively -- needs to play a larger role in the ecosystem if we are to deliver improved systems."

The group wants the federal government to spend $1 billion over five years in grants to states to help motor vehicles departments digitize their licensing tech to provide ID cards that can validate individual identities online. It also recommends ending the use of the social security number as an identifier, and wants lawmakers to consider legislation to end legal requirements for companies to collect SSNs on customers.

This investment, the blueprint argues, is justified considering the $16.8 billion in identity fraud losses reported in 2017.

The group isn't looking for a "moonshot" approach. The blueprint focuses "on a set of proposals that are both significant in impact and achievable – should government choose to act on them – in the next 2-3 years."

Rather than support a national ID, the coalition wants consumers to be able to "ask government that it stand behind the paper and plastic credentials it already issues in the physical world." This means creating a system that allows banks, credit card issuers and other institutions to submit validation request to the Social Security Administration and state DMVs.

The coalition notes in its blueprint that the Trump administration's proposed 2019 budget includes the establishment of a program management office charged with "modernizing identity proofing" at the General Services Administration. "This office should be fully funded and empowered to drive action across government," the blueprint states.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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