Digital ID insiders want to know: When will Congress do its job?

Digital ID insiders want to know: When will Congress do its job?

A theme developed during a committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol last week — digital identity as infrastructure, not something that is facilitated by infrastructure.

If there was a second message when five industry experts appeared before the U.S. House’s financial services committee, it was that the federal government needs to leave a lasting footprint in identity verification now.

“Digital identity is becoming critical infrastructure,” according to Elizabeth Renieris, founding director of the University of Notre Dame-IBM Technology Ethics Lab.

(It can be argued that Renieris is close, that digital identity is currency. That premise might be one evolutionary step ahead of this debate, if not Congress.)

She and the other witnesses worked to help committee members understand the importance of government establishing standards and regulations that make verification efficient and trustworthy.

Biometric and security “technology has evolved sufficiently that many of the visions of the 2000’s and 2010’s … have become feasible and usable,” testified David Kelts, mobile ID product development director for GET Group, a digital ID firm.

Kelts’ focus is on mobile driver’s licenses, and he has written about International Organization of Standardization principles for the concept.

Witnesses spoke about the societal cost of the present environment: rampant identity fraud, rights and services withheld because of ID problems (including not having one) and commerce friction.

The only obvious part of changing the situation, the witnesses agreed, is that one player has the ability to pave a wide path toward success — the federal government.

Jeremy Grant, coordinator of The Better Identity Coalition, pointed out the federal and state governments have pulled off what many other nations cannot even dream of yet — a coherent, authoritative and flexible physical ID regime.

The country needs to capitalize on that experience, albeit with a greater privacy component, Grant said. The Coalition is a diverse business group promoting the public and private adoption of verification and authentication systems.

“Our members are united by a common recognition that the way we handle identity today in the U.S. is broken,” he said.

There were endorsements among the witnesses for a federal bill that would require, among other things, the National Institute of Standards and Technology to create standards for the many government agencies involved in relevant work.

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