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Obama Drafting Online Identity System, Led by Commerce Department

president obamaPresident Obama is looking to create an Internet ID system for American Web surfers, and is counting on the Department of Commerce to make it a reality. As CBS News reports, the so-called "trusted identity" project is part of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which the Obama administration is currently drafting. White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt says the initiative is geared toward creating an "identity ecosystem," but it remains unclear what that ecosystem will look like, and how it will function.

"We are not talking about a national ID card," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke explained while speaking at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. "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."

Schmidt added that an online identification system would still allow users to maintain anonymity and protect their privacy when surfing the Web. "I don't have to get a credential if I don't want to," Schmidt said, stressing that there are no plans to put together "a centralized database" of user information.

At this point, it's difficult to envision a national ID system that isn't at least somewhat akin to a national ID card -- a concept that could very well raise the collective ire of civil liberties activists or privacy groups. The good news, however, is that the project won't be undertaken by the National Security Agency or the Department of Homeland Security. Critics had previously argued that delegating the task to either security department would merge police and intelligence duties in potentially dangerous ways. Expect more details on the ID system within the next few months, when the White House is expected to release its cybersecurity plan to the public.

Tags: cybersecurity, DepartmentOfCommerce, government, InternetId, obama, ObamaAdministration, politics, privacy, security, top, Web, WhiteHouse

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