Obama Eyeing Internet ID For Americans

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President Obama is planning to hand the U.S. Commerce Department authority over a forthcoming cybersecurity effort to create an Internet ID for Americans, a White House official said here today.

It’s “the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government” to centralize efforts toward creating an “identity ecosystem” for the Internet, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said.

That news, first reported by CNET, effectively pushes the department to the forefront of the issue, beating out other potential candidates including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The move also is likely to please privacy and civil liberties groups that have raised concerns in the past over the dual roles of police and intelligence agencies.

The announcement came at an event today at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Schmidt spoke.

The Obama administration is currently drafting what it’s calling the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which Locke said will be released by the president in the next few months. (An early version was publicly released last summer.)

“We are not talking about a national ID card,” Locke said at the Stanford event. “We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities.”

The Commerce Department will be setting up a national program office to work on this project, Locke said.

Details about the “trusted identity” project are unusually scarce. Last year’s announcement referenced a possible forthcoming smart card or digital certificate that would prove that online users are who they say they are. These digital IDs would be offered to consumers by online vendors for financial transactions.

Schmidt stressed today that anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. “I don’t have to get a credential if I don’t want to,” he said. There’s no chance that “a centralized database will emerge,” and “we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this,” he said.

Inter-agency rivalries to claim authority over cybersecurity have exited ever since many responsibilities were centralized in the Department of Homeland Security as part of its creation nine years ago. Three years ago, proposals were were circulating in Washington to transfer authority to the secretive NSA, which is part of the U.S. Defense Department.

In March 2009, Rod Beckstrom, director of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity Center, resigned through a letter that gave a rare public glimpse into the competition for budgetary dollars and cybersecurity authority. Beckstrom said at the time that the NSA “effectively controls DHS cyber efforts through detailees, technology insertions,” and has proposed moving some functions to the agency’s Fort Meade, Md., headquarters.

(Source: CBS News)


5 COMMENTS

  1. “Schmidt stressed today that anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. “I don’t have to get a credential if I don’t want to,” he said. There’s no chance that “a centralized database will emerge,”
    Until tomorrow when everyone and everything suddenly is required to use this and big brother has you.
    When the income tax was first started the people were told it would only affect the very rich. Right!
    Social Security started at a very low rate and now look at it.
    etc. etc.
    In Mitzrayim slavery started on a small voluntary basis and then became slavery.
    Don’t trust “Big Brother”.

  2. Obama is being a typical socialist liberal democrat. He wants to get into our lives more & more. We need to get him out of our lives ASAP. This is too much overreaching by the almighty obama.

  3. Chill! Something like this is needed to fight identity theft, money landering, and make it harder to engage in drug trafficking and terrorism.

    I was one of the few liberals who pointed out that the Bush Administration’s expansion of power under the Patriot Act was small potatoes compared to the intrusive powers that federal government gave itself during World War I and World War II. Now it is conservatives who are blasting Obama for doing even less, against real threats. Chill!

  4. There is definitely the possibility for abuse in this but it is not a bad idea if developed correctly.

    There was a time that people would just build or buy an automobile and drive it around where, when and how they wanted. It was a new invention and aside from scaring a few horses now and then, didn’t cause any real trouble. The problems came with mass production and mass use. Governments at all levels realized that with so many cars buzzing around and people being killed and property being damaged, regulations were necessary. So laws were made to regulate automobiles and drivers.

    The same is true today with the computer and the Internet. Anyone who connects his computer to the Internet today and does not have a proper firewall and anti-maleware system is as much of a danger to the public as someone who drives a car without proper brakes or lights.

    So I would be in favor of a law that gives every computer a unique ID (just as every car has) and not allow it to connect to the Internet until it passed a safety test (just as cars must do). This alone will eliminate over 99% of cybercrime. As to users, I don’t see what giving them a unique ID will help in cybersafety. That seems overly intrusive.