The ITIF, digital identity, and federalism

I just read an editorial by Daniel Castro, the vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and director of the Center for Data Innovation. The opinion piece, published in Government Technology, is entitled “Absent Federal IDs, Digital Driver’s Licenses a Good Start.”

You knew I was going to comment on this one.

Why Daniel Castro supports a national digital ID

Let me allow Castro to state his case.

After Castro identifies the various ways in which people prove identity online, and the drawbacks of these methods, here’s what Castro says about the problem that needs to be addressed:

…poor identity verification is one of the reasons that identity theft is such a growing problem as more services move online. The Federal Trade Commission received 1.4 million reports of identity theft last year, double the number in 2019, with one security research firm estimating $56 billion in losses.

Castro then goes on to state his ideal solution:

The best solution to this problem would be for the federal government to develop an interoperable framework for securely issuing and validating electronic IDs and then direct a federal agency to start issuing these electronic IDs upon request. 

Castro then notes that the federal government has NOT done this:

But in the absence of federal action, a number of states have already begun this work on their own by creating digital driver’s licenses that provide a secure digital alternative to a physical identity document.

Feel free to read the rest of the story.

“Page two.” By Shealah Craighead – The original was formerly from here and is now archived at georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=943922

But for me I’m going to stop right there.

Why Americans oppose mandatory national physical and digital IDs

Castro’s proposal, while ideal from a technological standpoint, doesn’t fully account for the realities of American politics.

Many Americans (regardless of political leanings) are strongly opposed to ANY mandatory national ID system. For example, many Americans don’t want our Social Security Numbers to become mandatory national IDs (even though they are de facto national IDs today). And while the federal government does issue passports, it isn’t mandatory that people GET them.

And many Americans don’t want state driver’s licenses to become mandatory national IDs. I went into this whole issue in great detail in my prior post “How 6 CFR 37 (REAL IDs) exhibits…federalism,” which made the following points:

  1. States are NOT mandated to issue REAL IDs. (And, no citizen is mandated to GET a REAL ID.)
  2. The federal government CAN mandate which IDs are accepted for federal purposes.
  3. Because the federal government can mandate the IDs to use when entering a federal facility or flying at a commercial airport, ALL of the states were eventually “persuaded” to issue REAL IDs. (Of course, it has take nearly two decades, so far, for that persuasion to work, and it won’t work until 2023, or later.)

So, considering all of the background regarding the difficulties in mandating a national PHYSICAL ID, imagine how things would erupt if the federal government mandated a national DIGITAL ID.

It wouldn’t…um…fly.

Transportation Security Administration Checkpoint at John Glenn Columbus International Airport. By Michael Ball – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77279000

And this is why some states are moving ahead on their own with mobile driver’s licenses.

LA Wallet Louisiana Digital Driver’s License. lawallet.com.

However, there’s a teeny tiny catch: while the states can choose to mandate that their mDLs be accepted at the STATE level, states cannot mandate that their digital identities be used for FEDERAL purposes.

Here we go again.

Of course, federal government agencies are starting to look at the issues with a mobile version of a “REAL ID,” including the standard(s) to which any mobile ID used for federal purposes must adhere.

Improving Digital Identity Act of 2020, or 2021, or 2025…

While the government agencies are doing this work, another government agency (the U.S. Congress) is also working on this. Castro mentions Rep. Bill Foster’s H.R. 8215, introduced in the last Congress. I’m not sure why he bothered to introduce it in September 2020, when Congress wasn’t going to do anything with it. As you may have heard, we had an election at that time.

Of course, he just reintroduced it last month, so now there’s more of a chance that it will be considered. Or maybe not.

Regardless, the “Improving Digital Identity Act” proposes the creation of a task force at the federal level with federal, state participants, and local participants. It also mandates that NIST create a digital identity “framework,” with an interim version available 240 days after the Act is passed. Among other things, the ACT also mandates that NIST Special Publication 800-63 become “binding operational directives” for federal agencies.

(Does that mean that it will be illegal to mandate password changes every 90 days? Woo hoo!)

Should this Act actually pass at some point, its directives will need to be harmonized with what the Department of Homeland Security is already doing, and of course with what the states are already doing.

Oh, and remember my reference to the DHS’ work in this area? Among those who have submitted verbal and/or written comments, several (primarily from privacy organizations) have stated that the government should NOT be promoting ANY digital ID at all. The sentiments in this written comment, submitted anonymously, are all too common.

There are a lot of security and privacy concerns with accepting digital ID’s. First and foremost, drivers licenses contain a lot of sensitive information. If digital ID’s are accepted, then it could potentially leak that info to hackers if it is not secured properly. Plus, there is the added concern that using digital ID’s will lead to extra surveillance where unnecesary. Finally, digital ID will not allow individuals who are poorer to be abele to submit an ID because they might not have access to the same facilities. I am strongly against this rule and I do NOT think that digital ID should be an option.

I expect other privacy organizations to submit comments that may be better-written, but they echo the same sentiment.

DHS TSA mDL Public Meeting general observations

As I previously noted, today (June 30, 2021) was the day for the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration to hold its public meeting on its Request for Comment on “Minimum Standards for Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards Acceptable by Federal Agencies for Official Purposes; Mobile Driver’s Licenses.” (See PDF or text version. The second link contains the method for providing comments.)

I will not provide a recap of the comments made by participants during the meeting, but will instead provide some general observations.

Incidentally, the list of all meeting participants will be made public at some point, and it’s possible that the chat transcript from the meeting will also be made public at some point.

Agreement and disagreement among the participants

As can be expected, there were a variety of views expressed at the meeting, ranging from industry comments about the items that should be in the DHS standard, to privacy advocates who questioned why DHS was implementing a standard at all. One example:

  • Industry participants, such as myself, were enthusiastic about the ability of a mobile driver’s license (mDL) to automatically update itself when new information became available at the DMV. For example, if I move to a new address, the DMV can automatically update the mDL on my smartphone to reflect the new address.
  • Privacy participants were, to put it mildly, a bit less enthusiastic about this feature. Physical driver’s licenses are updated as infrequently as every ten years; why should digital driver’s licenses be any different?

But there was apparent agreement between the industry and privacy participants about one possible feature on mDLs – the ability to control the data that leaves the smartphone and is sent to the verifying official. Everyone seemed to agree that this information should be granular, and that the mDL should not automatically send ALL available information on the mDL.

Let me provide an example. When I go to a bar and use my physical driver’s license to prove my age, the verifier (Jane Bartender) is provided access to my name, my address, my date of birth, my height, my (claimed) weight, and all sorts of personal information that would freak out your average privacy advocate. NONE of this information is needed to prove my age, not even my date of birth. All that the verifier needs to know is whether I am over the age of 21. An mDL can be designed to specifically state ONLY that I am over the age of 21 without revealing my birthdate, my address, or my (claimed) weight.

(You’d think that the privacy advocates would be thrilled about this granularity and would urge people to use mDLs because of this privacy benefit, but privacy and security folks are naturally suspicious and have a hunch that all of the information is being provided in the background anyway through double-secret means.)

But are the participants ready to respond to the RFC?

I had one other observation from the meeting. Before sharing it, I should explain that the meeting allowed the participants to ORALLY share the views that they will subsequently express in WRITTEN comments on or before the July 30 deadline.

And based upon the oral comments that I heard, some of the participants are ready to share their written comments…and others are not.

There were participants who spoke to the DHS about their items of interest, not only briefly stating these items, but WHY these items should be important to the DHS and to the general public.

And then there were participants who concentrated on unimportant details that were NOT of interest to the DHS or the general public. I won’t provide specific examples, but let’s just say that some participants talked about themselves rather than about DHS’ needs.

If these participants’ written comments are of the same tone as their oral comments, I can assure you that their comments will not influence the DHS in any way. Although I guess they can go back to their organizations and proudly proclaim, “We told the DHS how important we are!”

The DHS doesn’t care how important you are. In the DHS’ mind, you are not important. Only the DHS is important. (Oh, and the Congresspeople who fund the DHS are important, I guess.)

Perhaps in the next 30 days these other participants will take a look back at their message drafts and ask themselves the “So what?” question. What will motivate the DHS to incorporate desired features into the standard? And why should they?

And, as always, I can help. If nothing else, I can confidentially review your draft comments before submission and provide some suggestions. (Yes, it’s shameless plug time.)

If I can help you with your RFC response:

Or perhaps you are ready to respond now. I guess we’ll all find out when the DHS publishes its final standards, which may or may not reflect your priorities.

The DHS RFI “Minimum Standards for Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards Acceptable by Federal Agencies for Official Purposes; Mobile Driver’s Licenses” is NOT due on June 18 (it’s now due July 30)

Back in April I wrote about a Request for Information that was issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Its title: “Minimum Standards for Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards Acceptable by Federal Agencies for Official Purposes; Mobile Driver’s Licenses.”

The information was due to DHS on June 18 (tomorrow), and my post included a “shameless plug” offering to help companies with their responses.

No company requested my assistance.

But all is not lost, because you can STILL request Bredemarket’s assistance in composing your responses, because, according to Jason Lim, the due date has been extended.

DHS will hold a virtual public meeting on June 30, 2021 on mDL REAL ID RFI to answer questions regarding the RFI and to provide an additional forum for comments by stakeholders and other interested persons regarding the issues identified in the RFI.

DHS is also extending the comment period for the RFI by 42 calendar days to provide an additional period for comments to be submitted after the public meeting. New deadline is July 30, 2021.

If you want to register for the public meeting, click on the link at the bottom of Jason Lim’s LinkedIn post. I’ve already registered myself (the meeting starts at 7:00 am PDT, but at least I don’t have to commute to go to the meeting).

And the shameless plug still applies: if you need assistance in managing, organizing, writing, or checking your response, contact me (email, phone message, online form, appointment for a content needs assessment, even snail mail). As some of you already know, I have extensive experience in responding to RFIs, RFPs, and similar documents, and have been helping multiple companies with such responses under my Bredemarket consultancy.

Water is (literally) critical and needs to smarten up

Presidential Policy Directive 21 (2013), the successor to Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 (2003), defines 16 critical infrastructure sectors that need to be protected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other entities.

There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.

Some of the critical infrastructure sectors are obvious at first glance, including sectors such as transportation systems, nuclear reactors/materials/waste, and government facilities. But these aren’t the only ones. Take the Water and Wastewater Systems sector, overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Safe drinking water is a prerequisite for protecting public health and all human activity. Properly treated wastewater is vital for preventing disease and protecting the environment. Thus, ensuring the supply of drinking water and wastewater treatment and service is essential to modern life and the Nation’s economy.

Look at the pain that we’ve suffered because of water issues in Flint, Michigan and other cities. Now imagine what would happen if the water in a larger region, such as the Colorado River valley, were to become undrinkable.

Oh yeah, climate change.

Data show extreme weather events are increasing. This is challenging utility providers who are managing critical infrastructure around the globe. The year 2020 was truly devastating for wildfires. From California to Australia, the world got a firsthand glimpse into how warmer, drier conditions are causing harsher droughts — resulting in longer fire seasons and greater water scarcity.

Most of us don’t make a habit of reading Water Online, but this site published a recent article on the part that technology plays in preserving the water/wastewater critical infrastructure system. These technologies are converting our water infrastructure into “smart” infrastructure, a key part of any smart city.

One of the technologies that is making our water infrastructure “smart” is referred to as “digital twins.”

No, not “Twins is the New Trend” twins.

Here’s what “digital twins” means from the critical infrastructure perspective.

Digital twin technology is providing promise in this regard. Digital twins are software representations of assets and processes that help understand, predict, and optimize performance to achieve improved business outcomes. Digital twins consist of three components — a data model, a set of analytics or algorithms, and knowledge — and are extremely valuable when it comes to predicting the impact of a storm for sewage and stormwater management.

Digital twins, like weather, are revised as more data is gathered and more information becomes available. Like any science, we don’t know everything on day 1, but if we continue to gather information and test hypotheses we will know more on day 2, and then even more on day 145.

The benefit of digital twins? Lower repair costs by better targeting of responses.

For more about smart water, see this article in Water World.

Are you responding to the DHS RFI, “Minimum Standards for Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards Acceptable by Federal Agencies for Official Purposes; Mobile Driver’s Licenses”?

I already posted about this Request for Information (RFI) on LinkedIn and Facebook, but I wanted to highlight the details of the Department of Homeland Security’s recent request (see PDF or text version).

The RFI delves into a number of questions about treating mobile (i.e. smartphone) driver’s licenses as REAL ID-compliant. The RFI itself states:

DHS invites comments on any aspect of this RFI, and welcomes any additional comments and information that would promote an understanding of the broader implications of acceptance of mobile or digital driver’s licenses by Federal agencies for official purposes. This includes comments relating to the economic, privacy, security, environmental, energy, or federalism impacts that might result from a future rulemaking based on input received as a result of this RFI. In addition, DHS includes specific questions in this RFI immediately following the discussion of the relevant issues.

The RFI can be responded to by any member of the general public, although it is expected that the majority of responses will come from mobile driver’s license vendors and various interest groups. And trust me, there is a wide range of interest groups that are interested in this topic, and in the broader topic of REAL ID in general. Federalism itself is a popular topic when discussing REAL ID.

(Although personally, I believe that if the Federal Government is controlling air travel, and if the Federal Government is…obviously…controlling Federal facilities, then the Federal Government can implement rule-making regarding access. Needless to say, since all 50 states and several territories have adopted REAL ID, the decision has been made.)

While respondents can conceivably talk about anything in their responses, DHS (as noted above) has 15 specific questions to which it is seeking information (see section IV beginning on page 20325). Some are general, such as general questions about security, and some are more specific, such as question 4, which specifically focuses on DHS adoption of requirements derived from “Industry Standard ISO/IEC 18013–5: Communication Interfaces Between mDL Device and Federal Agency, and Federal Agency and DMV.”

Responses to the RFI must be submitted by June 18, and are submitted electronically. (Read the Commenter’s Checklist, and note that DHS prefers that respondents address all 15 questions.) I’m sure that a number of companies and organizations are already starting to think about their responses.

Shameless plug: if you need assistance in managing, organizing, writing, or checking your response, contact me. As some of you already know, I have extensive experience in responding to RFIs, RFPs, and similar documents, and have been helping multiple companies with such responses under my Bredemarket consultancy.