Trade groups press White House to digitize forms of identification

Who_I_am/Getty Images

Stronger digital identity solutions would curb future cyber attacks driven by identity and make stolen personal data less valuable, a coalition of 10 trade groups writes in a new letter.

The White House should back the creation of digital counterparts to physical identity credentials — like driver's licenses and passports — as well as attribute validation services from government agencies to confirm personal information, as it implements its National Cybersecurity Strategy, a coalition of trade groups wrote to top government cyber leaders on Monday. 

“Concrete action is needed to address deficiencies in digital identity infrastructure,” a coalition of 10 groups focused on banking, identity, health and technology wrote to Acting National Cyber Director Kemba Walden and Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology.

The group includes the Cybersecurity Coalition, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Technology Engagement Center, Electronic Transactions Association, Better Identity Coalition and American Bankers Association, among others.

The national cyber strategy included a section on digital identity pledging that “the federal government will encourage and enable investments in strong, verifiable digital identity solutions that promote security, accessibility and interoperability, financial and social inclusion, consumer privacy and economic growth.”

The group is urging cyber officials to focus on digitizing identity credentials as part of the plan to implement and operationalize the strategy 

They want the White House to launch a task force “to coordinate activities among authoritative issuers of identity credentials to help all issuers create digital counterparts to the paper and plastic credentials that they issue today.”

The letter argues the federal government should lead an effort to "close the gap between physical and digital credentials" within one year. That means working with states and other layers of government on developing digital birth certificates and mobile drivers licenses that can be used in the digital world, as well as for in-person identity proofing.

“White House leadership is essential,” they write, given that the issuers of such documents are split across levels of government.

The group also wants the White House to give the National Institute of Standards and Technology “specific direction” about mobile drivers licenses and attribute validation services. 

The standards-setting agency is currently crafting voluntary guidance for digital identity management systems, including attribute validation services offered by government agencies, which can be a critical part of identity proofing by confirming or denying if a piece of identity information is true. 

The trade groups also want the White House to back “an effort to formally document the estimated potential savings and overall economic benefit of investments in digital identity infrastructure.”

The requests follow many of the priorities of the Better Identity Coalition, one of the letter’s signees that focuses on digital identity specifically. Last year, it joined many of the same signees to offer similar input on what it wanted to see in an executive order teased by President Biden in 2022 — something that’s yet to be released. 

Experts told Nextgov/FCW in late 2022 that the delay in releasing the executive order is stalling progress and costing individuals and organizations in terms of identity fraud. The cost is something the latest letter also addresses.

The White House did announce an anti-fraud proposal focused on fraud prevention in public benefit programs in March, but the coalition wants the White House to “build on that with a broader proposal which can protect Americans from identity-related cybercrime in every sector and ensure that those who are victimized can get direct assistance.”

“Identity is not just a cybersecurity issue, or a banking issue, or a health issue, or a government benefits issue: it’s an issue that impacts every sector and every American,” Jeremy Grant, former senior executive at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and current head of the Better Identity Coalition, told Nextgov/FCW in a statement.