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News

Personal Idenfication Control To Remain In Domain of Individuals

British Computer Society (BCS) : 26 March, 2012  (Technical Article)
The British Computer Society explains why control of personal identification is an individual responsibility
Personal Idenfication Control To Remain In Domain of Individuals
Individuals, not organisations, should remain in control of their personal identification, whether held by governments or other organisations, according to a new report by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. The Aspects of Identity – Yearbook 2011–2012, published today, is aimed at everyone concerned with the issues of identity on the internet.

Louise Bennett, Chair of BCS Security, explains: “Individuals should control their identity authentication, which is essential for ecommerce and efficient e-government services to thrive. Privacy is a growing area of concern and needs to be addressed proactively to allow innovation to thrive and public confidence to be maintained in the application of new technology.”

The report is the result of a year long exercise by BCS security and privacy experts to contribute to debates on the internet, privacy and security around the world. It outlines the aspects of identity that BCS presented as the main issues throughout 2011 and presents recommendations for the ways forward on these issues.

The report asserts that identity assurance should not be seen as a straightforward problem seeking a technology solution but is instead a problem with many socio-economic risks that must be understood and addressed. These include such factors as: ‘how are individuals empowered to control their private identity information and give informed consent to its use?’ and ‘how are the problems of compromised end-points to be addressed?’

Louise adds: “Extending these principles to ensure that trust in identities can be established among differing cultures and jurisdictions is fraught with difficulty, yet is vital, of course, as the internet transcends national boundaries.”

At the moment the UN Internet Governance Forum (UN IGF) is focused on internet governance. BCS has set out to influence this through the work by introducing the concept of ‘identity governance’.

Identity governance is the means by which those who need to rely on internet identities will be able to gain the confidence that they require in the accuracy of the identity information that they obtain about other individuals and businesses. It is an emerging concept that BCS thinks is both important and in urgent need of further work. Neither the centralised, hierarchical model favoured by public key infrastructure (PKI) schemes, nor the less formal models based on reputation or ‘webs of trust’ seem able to scale to global size.

Louise continues: “We are not advocating a single UN-run system of global identity governance, but an agreed system for federating many identity governance schemes, with differing levels of trust and security, that all citizens can have confidence in when they need to use such schemes to protect their activities on the internet, irrespective of the jurisdiction they are in.”

“There are intrinsic risks associated with the creation of identity data, maintaining its integrity, security and non-repudiation that demand the highest standards of governance. It is essential that governments lead the way by ensuring identity assurance is trusted both by their citizens and international partners and is fit for a wide range of purposes.”

BCS Security plans to continue this work through 2012 with the aim of influencing both the UK Government and international institutions. They are running a workshop with EURIM and IdenTrust on: “Identity Governance – What are the essentials?” at the UK IGF in March. This will provide an input for further consideration by the UN IGF later in the year.
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