The Obama Administration is planning to give the Commerce Department control over a new effort to create a universal Internet ID for every American.
According to CBS, the gig was given to the Commerce Department, as opposed to the NSA, to ease concerns that government intelligence agencies were learning too much about the average citizen. Wait…aren’t the online advertising companies the ones building the most detailed profiles of users? Oh well, moving on.
“We are not talking about a national ID card,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. “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.”
As the recent Gawker hack showed, Locke has a point. It turned out that tons of users were protecting their identity with passwords like “1234567″ and “cheese.” Not only was Gawker’s site compromised, but the hack quickly rippled out to other sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, where users employed the same puny passwords.
The solution being considered now is a switch to more secure logins, like the OAuth system, which allows users to sign in from their Google or Facebook accounts.
Government ID would likely function in a similar way, an optional profile that users can create which is protected and validated by the government for use logging in to sites or paying for goods online.
Privacy sensitive users uncomfortable with giant corporations or government agencies acting as the arbiter of their online identity may want to get out a pencil now and start writing their passwords down in a very safe place.
bpopper [at] observer.com | @benpopper