Will mandatory, verifiable Internet ID's soon become the law of the land in the United States? According to information revealed last week at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research by White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, Howard Schmidt, and U.S. Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, that certainly seems to be the case, although both men deny that this is eventually what is going to happen with Obama's "trusted identity" project.
I was just reading an article on the CNET website entitled "Obama Eyeing Internet ID for Americans" in which this plan, called the "National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace", is discussed by CNET's political correspondent Declan McCullagh.
In the article, Mr. Locke is quoted as saying "We are not talking about a national ID card. We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy, and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities."
In Mr. Locke's opinion, the fact that Internet users will have to memorize fewer passwords -- as if we all really do that -- is supposedly a good thing. Personally, I couldn't disagree more. It is the very fact that I can choose dozens of different online aliases, each with their own unique password, which protects my privacy and security, and not the other way around. By having only one Internet ID and password, we are in fact making ourselves considerably more vulnerable to hackers and other unscrupulous individuals. Furthermore, how in the world is one's privacy being enhanced, when his name will be attached to only one identity if this system is implemented? Such a system will make it that much easier for the government and online businesses to track our activities all across the Internet. Quite frankly, I already get enough spam in my in box.
For his part, Mr. Schmidt claims that one will still be able to retain his or her anonymity and pseudonymity on the Internet. Schmidt states "I don't have to get a credential, if I don't want to," and adds that it is unlikely that "a centralized database will emerge."
It is the view of this writer that when government officials say one thing, they usually have plans to do the exact opposite sooner or later; but in order to sell an idea to the general public, they have to paint it in a positive light. When the Social Security system was first put into effect, similar pledges were made. Now, as we all know, one cannot engage in any kind of meaningful business activity unless he or she can provide a Social Security number, and they are now provided shortly after birth. So much for being a voluntary system.
While Mr. Schmidt claims that one doesn't have to join the "trusted identity" project if he or she doesn't want to, what he doesn't reveal are the personal inconveniences that one will begin to experience online if he or she does not join the new system. The very same thing happened when credit cards, followed by smart cards and debit cards, became popular. Nowadays, it is virtually impossible to conduct one's online personal business without them. It isn't difficult to foresee the same thing eventually happening with the "trusted identity" system. One will simply be out of the loop if he or she refuses to join the new system.
Concerning Schmidt's claim that no centralized database will emerge, all we have to do is look at previous government projects and pledges in order to quickly determine that like Locke, Schmidt is blowing a lot of hot air for public consumption, and nothing more. The US Government loves databases; and I suspect that it has a lot more of them than you or I are privy to.
The Internet has already been sufficiently ruined by greedy and annoying entrepreneurs. We don't need to make things worse by having the US Government become more involved than it already is. If George Orwell were alive today, what would he think?
We cannot allow a few loose cannons to be used as an excuse to further erode our online freedoms, and in this writer's view, that is exactly what the US Government is trying to do with the "National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace". Isn't this exactly what has happened with the so-called "war against terrorism" and the "Patriot Act"? In the so-called name of "protecting us", our freedoms have been sliced and diced ever since 9/11.
We, the people, are innocent until proven guilty, but the government is slowly but surely taking the opposite view, and no longer trusts its own constituents. It is beginning to treat us all like criminals, when no crime has been committed. Enough is enough.
You may still be able to find the original CNET article at the following URL: