Secure Marketspace with Mike D'Agostino

Obama's "Big Brother" Vision of IAM

So, did anyone read about the President's Cybersecurity Action Plan? I'm assuming you've read through all 10 points. You didn't stop to ponder after the first few did you? I mean, you didn't happen to stop after number 8? The one about the incident response plan?

I hope not, because points 9 and 10 are really what the plan is about. One through eight were pretty much a given...appoint a cybersecurity official? Initiate a public awareness campaign? Draft an incident response plan? These are all fairly obvious and in my opinion outline what any "online business" would have to contend with. Points nine and 10 are very far-reaching, though, and very bold:

9. In collaboration with other Executive Office of the President entities, develop a framework for research and development strategies that focus on game-changing technologies that have the potential to enhance the security, reliability, resilience, and trustworthiness of digital infrastructure; provide the research community access to event data to facilitate developing tools, testing theories, and identifying workable solutions.

10. Build a cybersecurity-based identity management vision and strategy that addresses privacy and civil liberties interests, leveraging privacy-enhancing technologies for the nation.

I know Obama didn't actually say that in the near future our next of kin would be implanted with ID chips upon birth, but I'm a bit surprised I haven't seen much speculation regarding his comments. I realize this list is but a whetting of the appetite compared to the policies, legislation and oversight that will eventually come out - but it is nonetheless a very important list that many have been looking forward to. After seeing points nine and 10, though, I expected an outcry from Rush Limbaugh and privacy groups of all shapes and sizes, but I really haven't heard much yet.

To me, point nine is trying to build a case for number 10. It doesn't really mean anything; it's just re-enforcing that Obama's administration is looking to push technology to the forefront, and if the result is a microchip implanted in everyone's neck - so long as it's "game-changing" and enhances the security of our digital infrastructure, then so be it! Number 10, though, is the true point and offers a glimpse into what the game-changing technology might be.

This truly is the moment we move into the future, when every citizen of the United States is registered and tracked in real-time in a government-run database. How will this system work? Will the government be administering hundreds of millions of RSA tokens? Will we all be registering with our fingerprints the next time we go to the DMV? Time, money and speculation will tell, and I, for one, am excited to see where this will go. I long for a day when my wallet, my keys, my cell phone and the various other small form-factor gadgets that line my pockets will be replaced by one ubiquitous device that also performs authentication duties.

I won't try to determine what type of technology will be involved in a government-run identity and access management system, but the privacy implications are obviously far-reaching. Is it possible to create such a system where freedom of speech and anonymity are still possible, while at the same time being able to authenticate someone's identity with 100% accuracy? It seems like a conundrum, as if you know of someone's true identity at all times, then that person can no longer act in an anonymous manner.

This will be a springboard to an unfathomable number of new technologies and systems that society has never dealt with in the past. If every citizen is part of a government-run electronic identity and access management system, would be it too much to ask that we get rid of all cash and physical currency? I mean, if the government is so sure of who I am at any given moment, then I can surely associate my finances, health records and otherwise with relative security, right? It's not like someone else can claim to be me and gain access to any of my personal data. Is a completely electronic, 100% credit-based economy too far off?

What's your take on a possible government-run identity and access management system? Are you looking forward to the day your identity can be authenticated with 100% accuracy, or are we just heading down the George Orwellian future of "1984?"

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