Monday, April 18, 2011
The administration of Barack “Mao” Obama announced Friday it’s pushing ahead with a plan for broad adoption of Internet IDs despite concerns about identity centralization, and privacy violations, and hopes to fund a pilot project next year.
At an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., administration officials pooh-poohed privacy and civil liberties concerns about their proposal, which is so draconian even China recently determined a similar scheme would violate the privacy of it’s citizens if adopted there.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said there’s “no reliable way to verify identity online” at the moment, citing the rising tide of security threats including malware and identity theft that have grown increasingly prevalent over the last few years. “Passwords just won’t cut it here.”
A 55-page document (PDF) released by the White House today adds a few more details to the proposal, which still remains mostly hazy and inchoate.
It offers examples of what the White House views as an “identity ecosystem,” including obtaining a digital ID from an Internet service provider that could be used to view your personal health information, or obtaining an ID linked to your cell phone that would let you log into IRS.gov to view payments and file taxes. The idea is to have multiple identity providers that are part of the same system.
The plan will be called National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, or NSTIC and amounts to a virtual equivalent of a national ID card.
During his speech, Locke lashed out at the “conspiracy theory set” who have criticized the proposal. A column in NetworkWorld.com, for instance, called NSTIC a “great example of rampant, over-reaching, ignorant, and ill-conceived political foolishness.”
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who also spoke today at the Chamber event, seemed to veer a bit off-message–and instead of touting anonymity, she stressed the importance of aiding law enforcement.
Protecting civil liberties is important, Mikulski said. “But the first civil liberty is to be able to have a job, lead a life, and be able to buy what you want in the way we now buy it, which is through credit cards.”
“We’re going to support the FBI,” said Mikulski, who heads the Senate subcommittee that oversees the FBI’s funding. “We’re going to support the growth of the FBI.” Seriously?
The Obama administration’s record on digital identification and authentication is mixed at best and wildly contradictory.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama told CNET that “I do not support the Real ID program.” But after being elected, Obama has not called for its repeal and his administration said last month that it’s working “very closely with the states to assist with implementation.”
Another concern: Although the White House is describing the NSTIC plan as “voluntary,” federal agencies could begin to require it for IRS e-filing, applying for Social Security or veterans’ benefits, renewing passports online, requesting federal licenses (including ham radio and pilot’s licenses), and so on. Then obtaining one of these ID would become all but mandatory for most Americans.
In 2007, China proposed a similar plan to implement internet IDs but, Chinese bloggers protested the proposal, which were viewed as a method the central government could control information, and the government backed down.
Will Americans follow the Chinese and oppose Barack “Mao” Obama’s internet ID plan or, will they just roll over and play dead, letting themselves be convinced into thinking greater government control of the Internet keep them safer?