The COVID-19 pandemic has helped provide governments with an impetus to usher in digital identification systems under the guise of convenience and, of course, safety. New York and Pennsylvania have both proposed forms of digital ID that government officials are claiming will help citizens manage their identity and protect their digital data.
New York's “Chief Customer Experience Officer”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul has proposed the creation of a “chief customer experience officer” to oversee the development of digital ID.
The state is already working to create a secure mobile app that allows users to store and manage their personal data. The app will use facial recognition to authenticate users, and it will be designed to be faster and more secure than other forms of digital ID.
“By eliminating bureaucratic hurdles, simplifying processes, and utilizing new technology, we will vastly improve the way New Yorkers access services and benefits from State agencies,” Gov. Hochul said.
The release also outlined the launch of “One ID for New York State”, and NY.gov ID, something the state's Chief Information Officer Tony Riddick described as a service that “captures all of the information that we get from our customers into one identification,” per Reclaim the Net.
The state is also exploring ways to use blockchain technology to ensure that data is kept secure and up to date. By using blockchain, the state says it can ensure that data is stored securely and updated in real time.
Pennsylvania's push for “Mobile Drivers’ Licenses/ID Cards”
In Pennsylvania, state Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) has proposed legislation that would allow citizens to voluntarily use digital IDs. The legislation would provide legal protections for citizens who choose to use digital IDs, and it would create a framework for companies to provide digital ID services.
Miller cites a law passed by Louisiana in 2016 as inspiring his proposal. In a memo discussing the legislation, Miller said this “embraces the reality that fewer and fewer people are carrying the traditional wallets or purses.”
The Pennsylvania Democrat's statement glosses over the issue of malware attacks against mobile devices, which is a growing concern as more and more people around the world have access to smartphones.
“Last year, cyber security company Kaspersky detected nearly 3.5 million malicious attacks on mobile phone users,” reported The Conversation in April 2022.
The new law would also mandate that companies offering digital ID services use strong encryption and other security measures. Additionally, the law would require the companies to provide users with a secure way to store their data, though cyberattacks against government agencies are becoming increasingly common as countries look to gain an upper-hand in this relatively new area of conflict.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create new challenges — including testing the rights of speech, assembly and more — governments are turning to digital ID solutions and assuring their citizens that they can manage their identities and protect their data.
New York's proposed chief customer experience officer and Pennsylvania's proposed legislation both aim to create a secure and user-friendly system that allows citizens to securely manage their identity, but only time will tell if these technological advances help, or hinder, residents' day-to-day lives.