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Obama administration unveils online ID system

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Big Brother? Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, pictured here with Obama, claims the move will protect Internet consumers from fraud and identity theft.

A plan to create a national online identity system was launched today to help combat cyber crime.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke claimed the move will protect Internet consumers from fraud and identity theft.

Unveiling the scheme, he insisted the cyber ID was not a Big Brother plan by the government to snoop on web users.

Mr Locke said it would mean people would no longer have to remember a variety of different passwords to do business and social networking online.

He claims that the current system of half-remembered passwords jotted down on post it notes and based on pets and mother’s maiden names is not enough.

‘Passwords just won’t cut it here,’ he said. ‘We must do more to help consumers protect themselves, and we must make it more convenient than remembering dozens of passwords.’

The Commerce Department said 8.1 million people fell prey to online identity thieves last year at a cost of $27 billion.

By using a single identification- which could come in the form of a unique piece of software on a cell phone, a keychain fob, or some other type of gadget- the administration believes it will be easier and safer to navigate the web.

Instead of having to remember all those disparate passwords, one for each site that conducts a secure transaction, a consumer would use that single credential to log in, with far more security than a password alone would provide, the agency said.

The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace will be voluntary, but some computer experts believe it is inevitable that most computer users will had a single ID for transactions in the future.

Officials say the ID will also help protect consumers from spammers and companies that collect data on their websurfing activity, letting them surf anonymously online.

It would not create a centralized database of information, the agency said, because consumers will be able to choose from a variety of programmes within the cyber-identity system.

Although the system is not yet up and running, the Commerce Secretary said a number of leading computer companies, including Microsoft, IBM, the Secure ID Coalition, and Wave Systems Corp, are developing ways to make the system most efficient and effective.

Scott Charney, corporate vice president of Microsoft, told Fox News: ‘This ecosystem will provide citizens with a variety of choices for authenticating their identity online while helping to protect their security and privacy.’

Jim Dempsey, a vice president for the Center of Democracy and Technology, added: ‘I think there’s a model here perhaps for the broader question of cybersecurity … the Administration, to my view, has conducted a very open process here.’


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