What Would A National Internet ID Mean for You

When the White House announced plans to create an Internet ID for all Americans, the details were vague and opinions were split."Let's be clear: We're not talking about a national ID card. We're not talking about a government-controlled system," U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in announcing the effort, aimed at enhancing security and minimizing the need for citizens to remember multiple passwords online.So what then, exactly, is the administration talking about, and what does it mean for you? We take a closer look.

When the White House announced plans to create an Internet ID for all Americans, the details were vague and opinions were split.

“Let’s be clear: We’re not talking about a national ID card. We’re not talking about a government-controlled system,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in announcing the effort, aimed at enhancing security and minimizing the need for citizens to remember multiple passwords online.

So what then, exactly, is the administration talking about, and what does it mean for you? We take a closer look.

What is a National Internet ID?

The National Internet ID is “not a national ID card,” emphasized Secretary Locke. It’s an enhancement to “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.” Details beyond that description, though, remain scarce, so exactly how it would work is still unclear.

When will it arrive?

The ID measure is part of the Administration’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), which Locke said will be released by the president in the next few months. (An early version was released last summer.)

What does it mean?

From what we know, consumers should expect access to one central online identity so that they could sign in just once and be able to move among other websites. The early NSTIC draft suggested a smart card or digital certificate that would prove the identity of online users for financial transactions. Locke described the effort as voluntary and meant to create an “ecosystem” where Internet users can trust each others’ identities, but the U.S. government will not have a monopoly on issuing online credentials.

Who will govern it?

The Commerce Department, which beat out other potential candidates like the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security for control, will be setting up a national program office to work on the project. The actual program, though, will be led by the private sector, not the government. A group representing companies including Verizon Communications Inc., Google Inc., PayPal Inc., Symantec Corp. and AT&T Inc. who have supported the NSTIC will likely lead this effort as well.

Tell us what you think? Is a National Internet ID the way to go?