Internet ID a Bid to Stop Whistle-blowers?

Posted on 10/01/2011 by

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The Obama Administration is moving ahead, it seems, with a plan to develop and offer online ID identity for sale. Generally, and as I understand it, these ID ‘certificates’ would be sold by private entities (corporate largesse, anyone?) to end users, to enable them to ‘[eliminate] the need to memorise a dozen passwords.’

Clearly the US government has forgotten the utility of 1) a pencil, and 2) paper. The idea is being touted quite positively, and in the ‘post-WikiLeaks environment’, anything touted positively should be taken with a truckload of salt. The response to the ID ‘certificates’ should not be, “they’re taking our privacy away!” because your privacy is as gone as Homeland Security wants it to be.

The correct question is, “what are the ID ‘certificates’ really meant to do?” Let’s consider the name of the programme: National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. Hmm… ‘trusted’ is a curious word to use, is it not? Wouldn’t ‘secure’ or ‘verified’ have a better ring to it, for reassuring the net-proles?

Parsing words, yes, but bear with me for a moment. Considering ‘trusted’ appears with ‘national’, I suggest that this means the trust is on a national level. In essence, an ID ‘certificate’ shows that the government can trust you, in addition to banks, major online retailers, et cetera.

Next question: why should the government need to trust you? Without being offensive, it’s a very high probability that you, dear Reader, are just a prole; you don’t know anything which the government would consider sensitive or vital to ‘national security’. This is why I would frankly take the government at its word: this will not be required for every user of the internet, because it’s not worth the bother.

Given recent events, in this post-WikiLeaks environment, who would the US government need to trust? Clearly, that would be those people who handle sensitive information, people the government is looking at with increasingly paranoid, guilty-until-proven-innocent suspicion. Those are the people who potentially represent the greatest threat to institutional secrecy within the US government, and therefore highest on the list of people to be tracked.

Generally, I believe that this ID is being developed, and quickly, in order to use it as a preventative measure against new whistle-blowing. The method will be simple, I think: everyone who has contact with sensitive information within the government and military will be required to always use their ID, even if it’s their home computer, or a non-work computer. This will ensure – in the government’s mind – that there will be strong incentives against whistle-blowing, because the ID removes easy anonymity. Private corporations, such as Bank of America, will likely take similar steps, to prevent any embarrassing information from becoming public.

So, don’t worry: this probably isn’t meant for us, at least not yet.. It’s meant to shut down whistle-blowers, at least in the short term. It’s patently obvious, of course, that once the government has the tool, it will eventually become mandatory. That will especially be true if Anonymous continues to be a thorn in the side of the US; mandatory ID ‘certificates’ would be an attempt to disrupt the hive-mind structure of Anonymous. Be that as it may, though, this is something to be very angry about: it is an attempt to shut down government, and corporate, accountability.

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Posted in: Activism, Analysis