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NIST, Georgetown, CDT to enhance digital identity guidelines for public benefits

NIST, Georgetown, CDT to enhance digital identity guidelines for public benefits

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is tailoring its digital identity guidelines to better support public benefits programs. These programs assist beneficiaries with essential needs such as food, housing, and medical expenses. The project is a collaboration between NIST, Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation, and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT).

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Laurie E. Locascio emphasizes the importance of balancing access and security in benefits delivery. She noted that different populations face varied needs and barriers, which this collaboration aims to address by bringing together diverse communities.

The plan is for the project to utilize NIST’s process of community engagement to gather input from federal partners, state benefit program administrators, IT and cybersecurity leaders, digital identity experts, technologists, advocates, and individuals with direct experience in the public benefits system.

Lynn Overmann, executive director of the Beeck Center, highlights the goal of developing human-centered solutions to improve government services, particularly for vulnerable populations. She expresses pride in partnering with NIST and CDT to enhance security, privacy, and equity in benefits applications.

The goal is to create voluntary resources for public sector organizations, including a profile of NIST’s Digital Identity Guidelines (Special Publication 800-63), to help evaluate authentication and identity proofing practices for specific benefits.

Alexandra Reeve Givens, President and CEO of CDT, stresses the need for carefully developed identity management solutions focused on equity, privacy, and security. She emphasizes that people should access public benefits without technical barriers or privacy compromises and trust that the systems will function fairly and securely.

Last year, researchers in the United States examined the way in which authentication and identity proofing is used in the U.S. to give access to public benefits.

In a growing call for accountability, governments and policymakers are urging AI developers and users in both consumer and public sectors to proactively identify and mitigate bias and discrimination in AI systems, according to a recent report by CDT.

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