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Lack of digital ID system costing U.S. government billions, experts tell FedID event audience

UK struggles to sell digital identity vision
Lack of digital ID system costing U.S. government billions, experts tell FedID event audience

The U.S. government’s lack of a digital ID system has made it unable to prevent billions of dollars in losses from identity theft and fraud, a Department of Labor official told an audience at the Federal Identity Virtual Collaboration event this week, according to Signal Magazine.

The government now sees the need for better identity verification and management tools as critical.

Department of Labor Office of Unemployment Insurance Administrator Gay Gilbert said more than 50 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance in just a few weeks, from a normal volume of 200,000 a week, as pandemic lockdowns went into effect and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed. The promise of fast, immediate payouts attracted large amounts of fraud, according to Gilbert.

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Deputy Director and Digital Innovation Officer Michael Mosier said 5,000 account takeovers are being reported each month, with total financial impacts of around $350 million. Department of Health and Human Services Advisor to the Secretary Nicholas Uehlecke says the department’s work towards interoperable digital identity could soon result in a digital ID credential held by the individual, that cannot be monetized by others.

NEC Corporation of America VP Benji Hutchinson notes an accelerated shift towards the use of computer vision and machine learning in digital identity and biometrics, as people seek contactless processes in travel and other sectors.

The Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center Director David Bray suggested the country follow Canada’s lead on digital identity, except for the data breach that hit its database of digital ID data.

UK digital ID plan lacks details, industry and advocates say

The UK’s plans to overhaul its digital ID system, including bringing in private businesses for its Document Checking Service, are being “cautiously” welcomed by industry experts, and regarded warily by privacy advocates, BIIA reports.

Big Brother Watch claims the exercise will create a huge central database with “could span” health, tax, and travel records, and biometric data.

The principles outlined by the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS) are similar to those adopted in other countries like Canada and New Zealand, except for the absence of security, says Open Rights Group COO Al Ghaff. The principles set out by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) include privacy, transparency, inclusivity, interoperability, proportionality and good governance.

“The principles in the response, while encouraging, mean very little until we see the real practice,” Ghaff comments, according to BIIA. “The Government must not use this as an opportunity to get prejudiced policies like Voter ID through the door or turn it into a personal data grab for commercial exploitation.”

Think Digital Partners Director Matt Stanley noted that “the ‘devil is always in the detail’ and that is yet to come.”

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