The New York Times reports on the question of online privacy:
Can privacy be preserved while bringing a semblance of safety and security to a world that seems increasingly lawless?
Last month, Howard Schmidt, the nation’s cyberczar, offered the Obama administration’s proposal to make the Web a safer place — a “voluntary trusted identity” system that would be the high-tech equivalent of a physical key, a fingerprint and a photo ID card, all rolled into one. The system might use a smart identity card, or a digital credential linked to a specific computer, and would authenticate users at a range of online services.
The idea is to create a federation of private online identity systems. Users could select which system to join, and only registered users whose identities have been authenticated could navigate those systems. The approach contrasts with one that would require a government-issued Internet driver’s license. (Civil liberties groups oppose a government system, fearful that it could lead to national identity cards.) […]
Mr. Schmidt described it as a “voluntary ecosystem” in which “individuals and organizations can complete online transactions with confidence, trusting the identities of each other and the identities of the infrastructure that the transaction runs on.”
Still, the administration’s plan has divided privacy rights activists. Some applaud the approach; others are apprehensive. “It seems clear,” Lauren Weinstein, the editor of Privacy Journal, wrote “that such a scheme is a pre-emptive push toward what would eventually be a mandated Internet ‘driver’s license’ mentality.”
The plan has also been greeted with skepticism by some computer security experts, who worry that the “voluntary ecosystem” envisioned by Mr. Schmidt would still leave much of the Internet vulnerable. They argue that all Internet users should be forced to register and identify themselves, in the same way that drivers must be licensed to drive on public roads.