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Call It Your Online Driver's License

By The New York Times

September 22, 2011

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The White House's National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace encourages the private-sector creation and public adoption of online user authentication systems.

The concept is that with a simple and easy way to prove one's identity online, people will conduct more business over the Internet--and companies and federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service could offer consumers swifter and more secure online services without having to develop their own vetting systems.

If the strategy is successful, consumers who opt in may soon be able to choose among trusted third parties that could confirm personal data and give them secure credentials to employ in online transactions.

Industry experts say that each authentication technology would have a reliance on at least two distinct identification (ID) verification techniques, which might include issuing smart cards, embedding an encryption chip in people's phones, or using one-time passwords or biometric identifiers to confirm sizable transactions.

However, privacy proponents warn that without stringent protections, widespread identity confirmation online could increase consumer vulnerability. They say that if consumers start entrusting their most personal data to a few third-party verifiers and use the IDs for various transactions, then authentication companies would become irresistible to hackers.

From The New York Times
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