The ID Divide
Yesterday, the Center for American Progress published its paper on identification and identification technologies: “The ID Divide: Addressing the Challenges of Identification and Authentication in American Society.” I was one of the participants in the project that created this paper, and it’s worth reading.
Among other things, the paper identifies six principles for identification systems:
- Achieve real security or other goals
- Fairness and equality
- Effective redress mechanisms
- Equitable financing for systems
From the Executive Summary:
How can these principles be honored in practice? That’s where the “due diligence” process comes into play when considering and implementing identification systems. Due diligence in the financial world of mergers and acquisitions and other important corporate transactions is conducted before a company makes a major investment. Proponents of, say, a merger (or in our case, a new identification program) can err on the side of optimism, concluding too readily that the merger (or new ID program) is clearly the way to go. Thorough due diligence protects against such over-optimism.
In the pages that follow, we apply this due diligence process to some recurring technical problems with current and proposed identification programs. And we discover—as you’ll see toward the end of the report—that ID programs that rely on “shared secrets,” such as Social Security numbers or your mother’s maiden name, are becoming more insecure due to the increased use of identification. Similarly, ID programs based on biometrics such as fingerprints or iris scans are not the “silver bullets” that some proponents claim they are, but rather could become compromised rapidly if deployed in haphazard ways.
We then apply our progressive principles and due diligence insights to two current examples of identification programs. The first details why it would be bad policy to require government-issued photo ID for in-person voting. The second shows the basically sound policy rationale for the Transportation Worker Identification Card, used for workers with access to security-critical port facilities. By examining one identification program that is reasonable, and one that is not, our analysis shows the usefulness of the Progressive Principles for Identification Systems.
I participated in the panel discussion announcing this report, along with Jim Harper (Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute).
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