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US bill introduced to make post office a digital ID dispensary

US bill introduced to make post office a digital ID dispensary

A logical idea in the U.S. to get more people enrolled in a trusted digital ID program has become proposed legislation.

The history of biometric identification in the United States has been one of half-measures, programs created by individual states and isolated agency efforts. Whether it is the result of national leaders accepting the technology or its need, the legislation could result in greater digital security for ordinary Americans.

A more strategic digital ID bill, also introduced this year, would overlie the new legislation, which is more about service delivery.

The new bill, introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, has only just been introduced and its fate is anyone’s guess. Postal Service officials have sometimes proved resistant to security upgrades even downstream from breaches of its systems.

It already has one apparently enthusiastic backer. Jeremy Grant, an attorney and the coordinator of the Better ID Coalition, said in a written statement that he is “thrilled” with the legislation.

Enterprise identity vendor Okta‘s head of federal affairs, Michael Clauser, also issued a statement, saying that the bill would “unlock a trusted new option for in-person identity verification in an age of deepfakes and AI-driven identity fraud.”

It is important to note that the Post Office Services for Trustworthy Identity Act would only give the postal service – the most trusted unit of the federal government – permission to create an in-person program.

But if officials choose to create the service, the act would allow the U.S. postmaster general, who owns logistics and freight companies that compete with the postal service, to charge a fee for digital ID services, include a physical security device for subscribers and other options.

Subscribers would not be restricted to only using a post office biometric ID account.

Postal Service officials have trialed in-person proofing – including the collection of biometric identifiers with the General Services Administration and the FBI.

(The Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement branch of the Postal Service, has experience with biometrics. An analytics program uses facial recognition to further criminal investigations.)

The GSA, which oversees the function of other federal agencies, has its own identification and verification program, called Login.gov, which it is shopping around to all corners of the government. The program does not use biometrics.

An inspector general report last year said there are many advantages to a plan like this. Today, 17,000 retail postal outlets provide in-person proofing – comparing documents to the person presenting them. These customers submit to proofing to get a post office box or to enroll in a program such as Informed Delivery.

And since 1975, the post office has provided proofing services for the State Department’s passport operations. The report says it is feasible that the USPS could gradually roll out biometric data collection to the 4,800 offices that are involved in that program today.

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