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Forget Mom’s Maiden Name

OK, don’t forget it. That would make Mom sad. But don’t worry about telling it to your bank or credit card company anymore, because there will soon be better ways of authenticating who you are online.

That is because the Obama Administration has unveiled the final iteration of its National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace — known, as these things often are, by an acronym: NSTIC.

NSTIC represents a huge step forward, as BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman notes, because it will give people better ways of authenticating themselves online, thereby strengthening security and privacy, which are the cornerstones of trust and confidence in cyberspace. This will help guarantee the continued growth of electronic commerce and communications.

From the very beginning of what has now been nearly a year-long process of discovery and consultation between government, industry and public stakeholders, there have been a few skeptics who have harbored misconceptions that introducing trusted identities online would mean creating a nationalized ID system for the Internet, with Big-Brother-like implications.

But the Administration’s plan creates something entirely different from that: an industry-led, market-driven system that will provide multiple, interoperable solutions for consumers and businesses. There will be a range of security and privacy options that offer anonymity or strong identity assurance, as circumstances warrant. And the system will be completely voluntary.

This is the right approach to enable the continued growth of e-commerce.

As with any plan, some particulars may still need to be worked out in the implementation phase. For example, the final iteration of the NSTIC appears to propose a preference for non-proprietary standards and solutions. The Administration’s stated policy is to promote the best technologies available to meet the security, privacy and other needs of government, businesses and private citizens. BSA looks forward to working with Administration officials to ensure NSTIC maintains that principle of promoting the best-available technologies without preconceptions or preferences.

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