Trusted IDs face fearful response

The government's proposed identity ecosystem instills as much fear, uncertainty and doubt as hope for easier and more secure online transactions.

The level of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that has always been a factor in online business has taken a turn for the worse — courtesy of the federal government, no less.

In late June, the Obama administration released a draft strategy for creating a system aimed at protecting individuals against identity theft, Internet scams and other malicious activity, whether someone is buying a book or downloading an electronic health record.

The gist of the proposal is simple: Develop a process for providing individuals with secure personal identifiers, such as digital certificates or smart cards, which they can use when conducting online transactions.

“The problem, as depicted in Peter Steiner’s legendary 1993 'New Yorker' cartoon, is that on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog,” writes John Markoff for the New York Times. “And thus the enduring conundrum over who can be trusted in cyberspace.”

At present, many businesses issue personal identifiers, such as passwords or personal ID number codes, to online customers. But the administration envisions a trusted identity ecosystem in which all participating organizations agree to recognize the identifiers issued by one another. Participation would be voluntary for organizations and individuals, but the administration is betting that the prospect of convenient, secure online transactions would be a big draw.

However, the FUD factor might temper that optimism.

Some people fear that the system would improve security at the expense of privacy, with the secure identifier making it easier to monitor an individual’s online activity.

The Obama administration “must tread carefully, as efforts to create identity cards, personal certificates or other systems of identifiers raise privacy worries and fears of Big Brother tracking its citizens online,” writes Lolita Baldor for the Associated Press.

Then again, some people are uncertain that the plan would even improve security.

The Homeland Security Department set up an online forum to gather feedback from the public. One reader thought the government’s approach made the prospect of identity theft even more frightening than it already was.

“A single centralized identity is inherently less secure than a dozen identities because it creates a single point of failure,” the community member wrote. “Once that identity has been compromised — which will certainly happen no matter what technological measures are taken to protect it because there will always be a user in the chain — an individual's entire life will be open for hijacking.”

Gartner Vice President John Pescatore said he believes the strategy is simply off point. Rather than trying to construct a federal identity ecosystem, as others have attempted in the past, “the government would be much better off focusing on the root of identity theft and cyber crime problems: reusable passwords,” he writes in a post on the Gartner blog network.

Ultimately, some security experts doubt that a truly secure system is possible without creating the online equivalent of a government-issued, mandatory driver’s license — the worst nightmare of privacy advocates.

According to this camp, the “’voluntary ecosystem’ envisioned by Mr. Schmidt would still leave much of the Internet vulnerable,” Markoff writes. “They argue that all Internet users should be forced to register and identify themselves, in the same way that drivers must be licensed to drive on public roads.”

Finally, there are those for whom the FUD factor is beyond all reckoning. Andrew S., commenting on the DHS forum, dismissed the administration’s strategy as pointless given the state of security on the Internet.

“There is no such thing as ‘trusted identity’ as long as 25 percent of all computers running Windows are infected with malware that lets other people remotely control their computers,” he writes.

 

NEXT STORY: DHS to take FISMA lead

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.