One of the biggest challenges for online services in both the public and private sectors is verifying the identity of users. When individuals register for a new service, how can online providers know if they are who they say they are?
As Daniel Castro writes in GovTech, the best solution to this problem would be for the federal government to develop an interoperable framework for securely issuing and validating electronic IDs and then direct a federal agency to start issuing these electronic IDs upon request. Both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security already have systems and processes in place that could easily be adapted to issue e-IDs, either as standalone products, such as smartcards or software certificates for mobile phones, or as an extension of existing identification documents, such as passports.
But in the absence of federal action, a number of states have already begun this work on their own by creating digital driver’s licenses that provide a secure digital alternative to a physical identity document.
Both the states and the federal government have long dragged their feet in improving identification in America — the Real ID Act, passed in 2005, is still at least two years away from full implementation. Given the many benefits of electronic IDs, hopefully it will not take another two decades to see progress.