White House Floats Universal Password Idea

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Washington — The White House last Friday released
a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace
(NSTIC) initiative that it said will, among other things,
give online users a default
level of privacy over sharing
personal information.

President Obama wants
to create an “identity ecosystem”
that will provide a
single, secure one-time digital
password to log on to
“any web site.” Online surfers
would not have to participate,
but if they did, they
would receive a “unique”
piece of software for a smartphone,
card or token, obviating
the need to remember
multiple passwords.

The goal is to “better protect consumers from fraud
and identity theft, enhance individuals’ privacy, and
foster economic growth by enabling industry both to
move more services online and to create innovative
new services,” the White House said. It is also to protect
online privacy.

“The Identity Ecosystem will provide more security
for consumers; it will also provide better privacy protections.
Today, a vast amount of information about consumers
is collected as they surf the Internet and conduct
transactions,” the White House said. “The NSTIC seeks
to drive the development of privacy-enhancing policies
as well as innovative privacy-enhancing technologies to
ensure that the ecosystem provides strong privacy protections
for consumers.”

Online privacy bills were introduced in Congress last
week, and the Commerce Department and Federal Trade
Commission have focused on providing consumers with
more choice and control over their online information,
such as in cases of targeted behavioral marketing.

“Although individuals will retain the right to exchange
their personal information in return for services they value,”
the White House said, “these protections will provide
a default level of privacy and will enable individuals
to form consistent expectations about the treatment of
their information within the ecosystem.”