Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Coming Soon: No More Internet Anonymity

You probably didn't see the media blitz on this because there was none. Instead, the "unveiling" described below was released to what appears to be a government security PR organ masquerading as an independent news source.

Government plan for consolidated online ID unveiled

Published 20 April 2011 
Last Friday President Obama unveiled a plan to establish federal standards to create consolidated secure online passwords; the ultimate goal of National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is to create a more secure environment for online transactions where users only have to register once and can use a common password for multiple sites; NSTIC lays out the industry standards and technology policies around the new authentication methods but leaves the development and deployment of the technology entirely in the hands of the private sector to avoid the establishment of a government-led national ID; privacy advocates worry that it could create an environment where authentication is increasingly required (link)
The buzz we've all been hearing about various one-or-no-password "solutions" seems to have arisen since this initiative was "unveiled" by Obama to reduce all Internet activity to "secure, single-sign-on" access.  Have you noticed now that you can sign into diverse website comment boards with any number of "social network" credentials -- almost always courtesy of a Facebook utility?  Many tentacles, one slimy octopus.

I'm probably not the only person who is annoyed with having to manage passwords.  And who doesn't want "greater cyber-security", in a world where any Internet user is rightly concerned about identity theft?  But the side-effect of the cure is a greater poison, because it means everything you do will be traceable ONLY to you. Of course, successful gamers of the system will much more easily do just what they please with your identity, since all instances of your Internet access will be accomplished by a single key.  Gone will be the natural, spreading-of-the-risk security that comes with numerous and diverse log-on credentials for various web-based tasks. Gone will be your ability to manage your own Internet identity(ies) and credentials.  Are there political, constitutional, freedom-of-expression ramifications to this? Just use your imagination.

Nobody would dare argue that the proposed initiatives are foolproof. Because they're not, the legitimate pursuit of online security can eventually only result in the requirement that a human being be uniquely and infallibly identifiable to a machine. Exactly what form that solution might take is a matter of conjecture, but it will, in its ultimate end, reduce the individual to an appendage of the Network.

It doesn't take much imagination to envision how unlovely life will be when that happens.

[update: watch the idea develop: http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/government-politics/va-starting-to-develop-a-master-identity-database/article_772d70fe-28ac-11e3-95ec-001a4bcf6878.html]


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