GSA Works to Expand Social Security Administration’s Digital Identity System

The General Services Administration wants to replicate a system that the Social Security Administration has implemented over the past three years to reduce identity theft in the financial services industry for use in digital service delivery by various other agencies.

According to Kate Wechsler, Executive Director of Consumer First Coalition.

Wechsler spoke Monday alongside Phil Lam, GSA’s executive director for identity, at an event hosted by the Better Identity Coalition, a business group pushing the government to move forward in the identity verification secure scan.

She said that before the system was implemented, identity verification at SSA “was paper-based and very slow to the point that, frankly, it wasn’t useful, especially in our increasingly digital for credit applications and decisions.You know, the moment you got the SSA result that there was no match, the criminal got his credit and left.

Congress specifically crafted the law to grant access to the system to financial institutions, including credit reporting agencies, but with the rise of digital services, Lam wants to see greater use of the SSA model in the entire government.

“Something that the GSA is particularly interested in is helping in some way to advance the concept [behind] what SSA does around authoritative attribute verification,” he said. “How can we do that with other agencies like the post office for example with addresses, or the State Department maybe with the passport, and maybe even [the Transportation Security Administration] with a known traveler number, and how do you bring these different government agencies together so that you can perform attribute-level identity verification, directly to the authoritative source? »

Lam sought to assuage privacy concerns associated with working with private sector partners by arguing that such systems would reduce the amount of replicated personally identifiable information circulating unnecessarily.

“The work that SSA has done with ECBSV, honestly, it’s groundbreaking for government agencies to enable that,” he said. “They do it in a way that maintains privacy, where they don’t send information. They just say yes or no.

The question of what constitutes an “authoritative source” has been highlighted by the Internal Revenue Service’s plan to…from this summer— require registrants to submit selfies through a company called in order to access their accounts.

“Fight for the Future has received many emails from people looking for ways to avoid disclosing their biometric information, and thousands of people have signed a petition to state lawmakers asking them to end this practice,” said Caitlin Seeley George, campaign director for the digital rights advocacy group. “Everything about the process is invasive, scary and dangerous. The feds should drop plans to force millions of Americans to use this facial recognition system to file their taxes…the company alleges in-person verification options, but has no information on its site about where or how access these options.

Lam said the in-person option is a must for identity verification systems because many people seeking government services may not have smartphones.

“They might not be able to take that selfie,” he said. “So we need to continue to focus here as well, not just on high tech, but how do we reach these other people in order to provide them with fair access to government resources?”

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