DHS selects 6 digital wallet startups for identity security contracts

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The agency aims to facilitate more ways to comply with travel document requirements while safeguarding U.S. citizen privacy.

The Department of Homeland Security took steps to bolster digital wallet technology development on Monday, announcing six startups the agency will partner with to help secure the privacy of travelers who are utilizing digital credentials.

Credence ID, Hushmesh, Netis d.o.o., Procivis, SpruceID, and Ubiqu have each won individual contracts with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate to help support the agency’s efforts to protect Americans’ virtual identity as they travel using online identity documents. 

“DHS is the authoritative source of some of the most highly valued credentials issued by the U.S. Federal Government for cross-border travel, demonstrating employment eligibility, residency status and citizenship,” said Anil John, Technical Director of S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation program, in a statement. “The capabilities developed under this solicitation will ensure that those credentials can be stored securely and verified properly while preserving the privacy of individuals using openly developed standards that are globally acceptable, highly secure, and accessible to all.”

The contracts were issued in partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the DHS Privacy Office and as part of the agency’s existing Privacy Preserving Digital Credential Wallets & Verifiers solicitation. Requirements stipulated in the solicitation focused on marrying digital security with easy access and use.

Each of the selected companies specializes in privacy preserving technology to help securely store individuals’ digital identity credentials and create verification tools to ensure proper access and usage. The companies’ individual technologies also support privacy standards established by the World Wide Web Consortium.

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is the United States’ authoritative issuer of highly valued credentials related to citizenship and immigration,” said Jared Goodwin, acting chief of the Program Management and Data Division at USCIS. “Supporting standards-based digital credentials and secure digital wallets for storing them enables us to meet our customer expectations of ease, convenience, privacy and security in an increasingly digital world.”

The Transportation Security Agency under DHS has made recent efforts to accept digitized official identity documents for travelers to and from 27 airports around the country. But in June the House Homeland Security Committee advanced legislation that would require oversight into TSA use of digital identity systems to assess risks and benefits of deploying such initiatives.