House lawmakers push digital identity verification

To cut down on data breaches and identity theft, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers is looking to overhaul personal digital identification for U.S. citizens.

The Improving Digital Identity Act of 2020 would set up a task force across federal, state and local government charged with creating a new "standards-based architecture" for digital identity verification services and to determine whether it makes sense for federal agencies to supply identity verification to the private sector on a fee-based model.

The bill also calls for the Department of Homeland Security  to order federal agencies to put into place digital identity guidelines created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and to implement practices called for in a May 2019 White House memo on improving identity, credential and access management.

Additionally it establishes a digital identity innovation grant program for states to upgrade the systems they use to issue drivers’ licenses and other types of identity credentials and supports the development of interoperable digital identity verification systems in accordance with the framework developed by NIST.

Co-sponsor Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) called the bill a "much-needed first step" in developing more secure, interoperable digital credentials. With COVID-19 accelerating consumers' migration to online banking, investing, shopping and health care, Foster said, ramping up digital identity protections is crucial to protect online transactions.

Reps. John Katko (R-N.Y.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), and Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) also back the legislation.

"Whether logging into an email account or checking test results from a doctor, people rely on their digital identities every day," Langevin said in a statement. "Yet even as the range of online services continues to expand, the most authoritative form of ID remains the decidedly analog driver’s license."

The bill also has support from the Better Identity Coalition, a cross-industry trade group representing financial services, health care, insurance, technology, financial technology, payments and security providers on issues related to identity management. The coalition, formed in 2018, has been pushing for stronger digital identity protections.

"We're thrilled to see a bipartisan group of House members come together to recognize the importance of these challenges and put forth common-sense legislation to help Americans better protect their security and privacy in the digital world," Jeremy Grant, coordinator of the Better Identity Coalition, said in a statement.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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