Greetings. The White House has just released the draft of a rather chilling document -- tellingly hosted on Department of Homeland Security servers -- that proposes the creation of a vast, federally-led "Trusted identities in Cyberspace" infrastructure that would potentially reach into nearly every aspect of Internet use, from financial transactions to comments on blogs. The White House is seeking public comments on the proposal.
While touted as a voluntary public/private partnership toward universal Internet identities, it seems clear from an initial reading that such a scheme is a preemptive push toward what would eventually be a mandated Internet "driver's license" mentality of the sort I've been warning against (e.g. Saving Internet Anonymity -- The Struggle is Joined -- April/2010).
It is certainly true that there are some specific situations while using the Internet during which strong identity credentials are very useful, and various of the problem scenarios outlined by the White House draft are real to one degree or another. But Internet industries have been working effectively to develop systems, such as OpenID, that can address such concerns in a truly voluntary manner without government involvement or interference, and without requiring or coercing individuals into sharing identities across multiple sites against their wills.
Let me put it this way in brief for now. Attempts by the federal government -- or other governmental entities for that matter -- to usurp leadership roles in any aspect of Internet identity ecosystems should be politely but strongly rejected.
I will have much more to say about this in the future, but since many people were already asking me about the White House draft, I wanted to get this initial thumbnail analysis out the door as quickly as possible.
Frankly, the concept of the federal government taking their proposed role in this area, especially in today's political climate -- is so obviously unwise -- and perhaps potentially dangerous -- that it's not even a close call. This is especially true given the increasing calls from some in government for massive Internet data retention regimes that could easily be linked with such federally-coordinated Internet ID systems.
I am hosting a local PDF copy of the White House draft here: White House Identity Draft
You can also download the document from the Department of Homeland Security.
More to come.
Blog Update (27 June 2010): Why the New Federal "Trusted Internet Identity" Proposal is Such a Very Bad Idea