National Digital ID System For U.S. Citizens Fast Becoming Reality Following Vote To Advance The “Improving Digital Identity Act”

Digital Identity
If the upcoming digital IDs are tied to citizen’s finances – especially in light of the growing popularity of online banking and bill-paying, the potential damage that hackers could achieve could be catastrophic, experts say. File photo: Blue Planet Studio, Shutter Stock, licensed.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After the Improving Digital Identity Act (S. 4528) was passed by the Senate Homeland Security Committee in September, lawmakers plan on attaching the bill to defense spending legislation that, if passed, will pave the road for a national digital identification system for Americans citizens.

The adoption of a digital version of ID has drawn two distinct sides; one praising the move as one that would provide a more secure version of identifying personal data when compared to physical documents – especially when used online – where as the other side are concerned over possible misuse and violations of civil liberties.

Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, noted that while all-digital identities are the current goal of the government for citizens, the tech behind such a move may not be as end-all, be-all when it comes to ensuring personal privacy due to the potential of outside hacking.

“Digital is often touted as the ‘future,’ and many people cast such a transition as inevitable. But digital is not always better…especially when systems are exclusively digital,” he said. “There’s a reason that most jurisdictions have spurned electronic voting in favor of paper ballots, for example.”

If the upcoming digital IDs are tied to citizen’s finances – especially in light of the growing popularity of online banking and bill-paying – the potential damage that experienced hackers could achieve could be catastrophic, experts say.

In addition, the idea of personal or professional finances being tampered with by governmental agencies for various offences – without due process – could also rear its ugly head; the recent development that PayPal had updated its user agreement to allow the online payment website to automatically fine users who they deemed guilty of spreading “misinformation” served to pour fuel on this online fire, but due to the instant backlash, PayPal immediately withdrew the update. PayPal claimed that the controversial update had been added “in error” and that it was never meant to be policy, but the hazards of the idea of citizens utilizing all-digital identities for their financial transactions was highlighted nonetheless.

Also, privacy advocates warn that IDs that can be used in traffic stops, airport check-ins, and proof of age for purchases or entrance to entertainment venues may leave a digital trail of where and when a license is presented, potentially allowing governments or businesses to track people or their purchases, according to Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.

 “If I show my plastic driver’s license to a liquor store clerk, nobody else knows about that,” he said, noting that the same would not hold true if a digital ID were scanned by the store clerk instead. “Likewise, a physical driver’s license lets you control what information is shared and limit it to what’s required for that transaction.”

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