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US government sets up office to oversee online trusted identities program

The new National Program Office will support the National Strategy for Trusted Identifies in Cyberspace (NSTIC), a draft of which was issued in June last year by White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt.

Schmidt and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke unveiled the new office Friday at a Silicon Valley conference sponsored by Stanford University.

The office will work with private industry to develop a national online identity system for US citizens. Schmidt described the initiative: “We need a cyber world that enables people to validate their identities securely, but with minimal disclosure of information when they’re doing sensitive transactions (like banking) – and lets them stay anonymous when they’re not (like blogging). We need a vibrant marketplace that provides people with choices among multiple accredited identity providers – both private and public – and choices among multiple credentials.”

The online identity system is part of a broader White House effort to establish an identity ecosystem in which sensitive online transactions can be carried out with higher levels of security and trust. “In this world, we can cut losses from fraud and identity theft, as well as cut costs for businesses and government by reducing inefficient identification procedures. We can put in-person services online without security trade-offs, thereby providing greater convenience for everyone”, he said.

Locke added: “The Internet will not reach its full potential until users and consumers feel more secure and confident than they do today when they go online. A coordinated national strategy to significantly improve online trust will put e-commerce on stronger footing.”

Later this year, the Commerce Department plans to hold a workshop involving industry, academia, civil society organizations, standards-setting organizations, and government to discuss NSTIC initiatives.

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