The US government is rolling out a “driver’s license for the Internet.” No way this could go wrong.

The National Strategy for Trusted Identies in Cyberspace starts testing in government agencies in two US states. “Calling this move ill-timed would be the most gracious way of putting it,” says Techdirt’s Tim Cushing. (US Government Beings Rollout Of Its ‘Driver’s License For the Internet’)

[A]t a time when the public’s trust in government is ant an all-time low, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST – itself still reeling a bit from NSA-related blowback) is testing the program in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The first tests appear to be exclusively aimed at accessing public programs, like government assistance. The government believes this ID system will help reduce fraud and overhead, by eliminating duplicated ID efforts across multiple agencies.

But the program isn’t strictly limited to government use. The ultimate goal is a replacement of many logins and passwords people maintain to access content and participate in comment threads and forums. This “solution,” while somewhat practical, also raises considerable privacy concerns.

The keepers of the identity credentials wouldn’t be the government, but rather a third party. Banks, technology compaies, and cellphone service providers were suggested as keepers when the program was introduced in 2011. “[S]o theoretically Google or Verizon could have access to a comprehensive profile of who you are that’s shared with every site you visit, as mandated by the government.”

The proposal also raises security concerns, creating a central store of identitiy information susceptible to hacking. And with the government behind the proposal, citizens may not have the option of opting out.

Here’s the original statement on Whitehouse.gov: “President Obama Releases the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace.” It cites banking and online health records as example applications.

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