NEWS

White House's Trusted Identities Strategy Doesn't Inspire Trust

By Matthew Harwood

The White House's draft plan to create trusted identities in cyberspace has met with skepticism if not outright hostility in some electronic security and privacy quarters.

One month ago, the White House released its "National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace" (.pdf) laying out its vision for a voluntary "Identity Ecosystem" that could foster trusted online transactions while promoting privacy. According to the strategy, "[t]he Identity Ecosystem is an online environment where individuals, organizations, services, and devices can trust each other because authoritative sources establish and authenticate their digital identities."

According to the strategy's introduction, trusted identity credentials provided by private and public organizations could help eliminate the growing problem of identity theft and other types of fraud and data theft online. The draft cites complaint numbers from the Internet Crime Complaint Center that indicate cybercrime continues to increase and costs its victims $560 million in 2009. The strategy also reports 10 million Americans annually become victims of identity theft and can spend up to 130 hours reclaiming their identity.

The White House believes the strategy could help fight these online ills.  "What has emerged is a blueprint to reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities and improve online privacy protections through the use of trusted digital identities," Howard Schmidt, cybersecurity coordinator and special assistant to the president, posted on the White House blog.

Beyond security, trusted identities would make life easier for netizens, the White House said.  "No longer should individuals have to remember an ever-expanding and potentially insecure list of usernames and passwords to login into various online services," wrote Schmidt.

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