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Tracking identity of visitors to government Web sites

HP aims to help governments check IDs By Alorie Gilbert, News.Com, May 26 16:16:00 PDT 2005.

This short news item describes a new product from Hewlett-Packard that “helps governments check the digital identity of citizens.” It can be used “to authenticate visitors to government Web sites, to control access to services and manage citizens’ online identity.”

This suggests an important question to me: Will GPO use such technologies or will it protect the privacy of users and guarantee full access to to government information by refusing to use such technologies?

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

1 Comment

  1. The Government Printing Office (GPO) has posted the initial “Requirements Documents” for the Future Digital System at http://www.gpo.gov/projects/pdfs/FDsys_RD_v1.0.pdf.

    Based on my initial reading of the document, there are several places where the document seems to imply that GPO will use access control and other “digital rights management” features (all emphasis mine):

    From Page 19:

    +All End Users will have the ability to search for and access content within the system. Access to content may be dependent on End User rights and privileges.

    +The End User searches descriptive metadata and/or content within documents. Within the End User’s given access rights and privileges, the End User may use available functions and features.

    From Page 46

    DEP 4.2 The system shall accept digital files that have rights limitations if they are in scope for GPO dissemination programs (e.g., controlled sales list, cooperative pubs, tangible electronic products with software rights issues).

    From Page 47

    CON 4.2 The system shall convert tangible titles that have rights limitations if they are in scope for GPO dissemination programs (e.g., controlled sales list, cooperative pubs, tangible electronic products with software rights issues).

    On the plus side, there is a whole section in the document on user privacy starting on page 132 of the PDF file ( Security – User Privacy (SEC 4.0)). On the other hand, if gov’t policy changed to eliminate privacy in seeking gov’t information, it appears that FDSys would be able to report on this since Requirement SEC 3.1 is for “The system shall keep an audit log of all transactions in the system” and Requirement SEC 3.1.1 is “The system shall the capability to reconstruct complete transactions in event there is a need to investigate the validity and integrity of user transactions.” Taken together, my layman’s reading is that they will assure us privacy today, but will have the technology in place to remove it tomorrow.

    Another bright spot, is that the Requirements Document explicitly calls for a default end user interface where no log-in is required (IF 1.9 on page 91 of the PDF file). On the other hand, the technology is there to track IP addresses whether you log in or not.

    But I could be wrong about all this. If someone from GPO wants to correct me, or if someone out there has more experience reading long requirements documents has a different interpretation of the requirements document, feel free to respond in comments or e-mail me at dnlcornwall@alaska.net.

    “And besides all that, what we need is a decentralized, distributed system of depositing electronic files to local libraries willing to host them.” — Daniel Cornwall, tipping his hat to Cato the Elder for the original quote.

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