One of the key value propositions of Facebook Connect is the ability to avoid having to remember numerous passwords to log on to different sites. However, the Obama administration appears to be interested in accomplishing the same thing.
In a statement at a Stanford event this weekend, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke stated, “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.”
Apparently the administration has become convinced that a privately managed identity service is not sufficient for protecting consumers. Unfortunately details on the new initiative are lacking; however, given the administration’s close contact with industry insiders, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a government-backed OpenID-like identity provider.
According to a story published in CBS News, “There’s no chance that ‘a centralized database will emerge,’ and ‘we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this,’ [Locke] said.” That statement is at least a little bit refreshing. From the sound of things, this centralized identity solution is more secure than Facebook Connect, which currently doesn’t provide access to any form of personal financial data.
For the time being there’s no way to determine what the administration has planned; however, there’s no doubt that Facebook will be watching any centralized identity service proposed by the administration extremely closely.