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Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

Posted July 12, 2010 5:00 AM by Sharkles

Arguably one of the greatest perks of the Internet is that we're able to access information, produce content, shop, etc., anonymously. Newer forms of social media allow people to step out from the veil of anonymity if they choose, but many continue to hold onto their right to privacy on the Web.

One downfall of anonymity on the Web is that it allows for cybercrime, which is why government officials are now working to make a safer Internet while leaving it largely lawless. At the end of last month, the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace released a draft of a plan called "Creating Options for Enhanced Online Security and Privacy," that Internet privacy officials and activists have been debating since.

Online Ecosystems
The proposal details "voluntary trusted identity" systems, which The New York Times describes as "the high-tech equivalent of a physical key, a fingerprint and a photo ID card, all rolled into one." The system could act as a "digital credential" that is linked to a specific computer, which would provide access to online services including credit card purchases, online banking, electronic healthcare records, and more.

Users would select which system they wanted to join and know that only other registered, authenticated users were browsing the same systems. This approach is compared to how Google and Microsoft have a single sign-on system that allows users access to a number of services – mail, history, profiles, alerts, etc. The systems approach is being likened to a "walled garden" or "voluntary ecosystem" that would enable users to feel safe within their chosen online communities.

Concerns
"Internet driver's licenses" had been proposed previously, but disputed by civil liberties groups out of fear that the licenses would lead to national identity cards. Some proponents for Internet licenses are speaking out against the latest proposal and saying that the systems approach would still leave much of the Internet open and vulnerable. These advocates believe that the only way to truly make the Internet safe is to have everyone register and identify themselves.

Other concerns regard the infrastructure of the Internet, which was not originally designed for security. Some say that it might be "too late." In The New York Times piece, Rodney Joffe, a senior technologist at an Internet infrastructure firm, said "We're now seeing attacks on the Internet's plumbing… If you get control of the plumbing there are lots of things you can do because the plumbing was never designed for a world where there is a lack of trust."

Some argue that it's not too late for security, but say that the proposal is going about it wrong. In looking at the current comments, it appears that the consensus is that multiple IDs are thought of as being more secure than one. On the same note, not everyone wants to use the same ID for their personal and professional lives. Other comments point to existing technologies like Open ID, or say that the idea needs more thought.

Thoughts
Call me paranoid (many have), but I don't want to be able to access some of the information they want to have available – healthcare records and bank statements – with one log-in. I agree with the commenter on Homeland Security's website who says that multiple log-ins are safer than one. If online infrastructure isn't there to protect users of the ecosystem approach, then having one universal identity makes it easier for hackers to access and steal your personal identity.

What do you think?

Resources

"Creating Options For Enhanced Online Security and Privacy." DHS.gov. 25 June 2010. Web. 7 July 2010. < https://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/ns_tic.pdf>

Markoff, John. "Taking the Mystery Out of Web Anonymity." The New York Times. 2 July 2010. Web. 7 July 2010. <https://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/weekinreview/04markoff.html?ref=technology>

Naone, Erica. "The Government Has an Online Identity Plan for You." Technology Review. 7 July 2010. Web. < https://www.technologyreview.com/web/25727/?a=f>

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#1

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

07/13/2010 12:24 AM

Anonymity and privacy are fantasies. There is already a flood of information about you and everyone else out there, not only on the Internet, and if someone is really interested in your activities, they can, with minimal effort access a great deal of information about you whenever they want. Thin about your bank account, and the records of the checks you have written. Or your credit card purchases. What do these say about you? All of this information is readily available to anyone with just a little bit of computer savvy- or, if one happens to be a government agent, one can easily access this information without a court order, thanks to the Homeland Security Law.

When governments talk about "security" on the web, one needs to translate the doublespeak. In Government doublespeak, "security" means control. No matter what rules and regulations the government tries to implement, they will apply only to law-abiding citizens, not the bad guys. The bad guys will figure out how to circumvent any system the government tries to implement, probably before it is implemented. After all, their livelihood depends on it.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

07/13/2010 8:07 AM

Great answer, cwarner7 11. I was talking to my father about the same thing just yesterday. I'm with you – I too believe that nothing we do is private, whether it's searching the internet or talking on a cell phone. This is why this topic caught my eye – that and because I found it incredibly telling that Homeland Security is the one behind it. Considering that they likely have the ability to see everything as is, it seemed odd that they were even opening it up to the public like this.

Since many do believe that the government is trying to look out for them, it's interesting to see that this is how Homeland Security is selling it. For me, the system they've proposed right now is very troublesome. It does suck that virus makers, hackers, and whoever are out there trying to get at your information right now – but it seems like the proposed system would make things even more vulnerable for everyone.

I especially agree with your sentiment that bad buys will always figure it out and that law-abiding citizens will always bear the brunt of these initiatives. What's next, telescreens?

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

07/13/2010 2:24 PM

remember that movie The Net with Sandra Bullock....

the fox is guarding the henhouse....

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#5
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Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

07/13/2010 5:55 PM

I was thinking more along the lines of George Orwell's "1984"...

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

07/13/2010 9:31 PM

From the back seat: "Are we there yet?" Or: "I spy with my little eye"

Boring, boring, boring........>>>>>>>>

It's just a waste of time to be protective. It's open slather for all and sundry. Even strength in numbers gives no protection any more. When I was researching explosives, for the use in the Gulf oil spill disaster, it suddenly daunted on me that my searches could be misinterpreted and I stopped. I calmed myself and said "I can explain! No need for the hand cuffs officer." But he would not listen. He was following orders, nothing he could do about it.

We have castrated our selves and where from here?

A: "Yes, we are there now"

A: "It starts with a D"

Too late now, I suppose, Ky.

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#7
In reply to #5

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

07/14/2010 1:11 AM

Animal Farm All animals are equal, some animals are more equal than others

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#8
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Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

07/14/2010 1:45 AM

that too.

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#3

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

07/13/2010 11:18 AM

Yep. Stinks of trying to make themselves (Homeland Security) more legitimate behind the false pretense that this new, agreed upon, "security" system is what has allowed them to collect the information they already have access to. It is true that there is little privacy anymore. Only now are some people waking up to that fact. There are quite a few "private" companies whose business is marketing these kinds of databases and information. It's the bane of the electronic/information age.

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#9

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

07/21/2010 10:24 PM

In an article, "Top Secret America A hidden world, growing beyond control", published in the Washington Post Monday, July 19, 2010, some very interesting information was published about how big and pervasive the intelligence community has become since 9/11. The bad news is that it appears no more efficacious at interrupting international terrorist scheme than those that came before. The good news is that with all the information being collected and analyzed by an "estimated 854,000 people" at "Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies", that publish on the order of "50,000 intelligence reports each year", there is such a tremendous overload of information that no one can effectively act on any of it. Of course, the article only details the public face of this megalith- no telling what is behind the walls of the really secret stuff.

So, in effect, our personal privacy is guarded by the fact that there is just too much information available to allow anyone to single us out. If nearly a million (known) analysts can not spot one bad guy (even though they have a wealth of information, as it turned out was true of the 9/11 attackers), it is unlikely that flooding the system with more information is going to result in a loss of privacy- we all get lost in the noise...

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

07/21/2010 10:35 PM

we all get lost in the noise...

my conspiracy theory chip (XtR-911b) tells me that the opaqueness factor of the chaos is really just a one way mirror. They can see us, and we can't see them. (or blame them. They can override rights at will, but can't be individually prosecuted. The confusion really just keeps the animals within the farm perimeter. the old psychological fence. we also are scared shatless into being hypervigilant about our 'neighbors' and reporting them.

good researching though cw, regardless of our difference in analysis.

Chris

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Anonymous Poster
#12
In reply to #10

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

08/29/2010 10:50 AM

We are devolving into something America is not supposed to be.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

08/29/2010 3:31 PM

you think that's something new to America?

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Anonymous Poster
#11

Re: Proposed Online Identity Program – Protective or Prying?

08/29/2010 10:49 AM

Just google for corporate and govt data loss, many many incidents of idiots losing whole databases from stolen laptops and other incidents.

Trust them with your personal data at your peril.

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