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Officials say the initiative will be limited in scope and access, but will help to conduct business.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
RICHMOND — Using Department of Motor Vehicles records as its core, the state government is quietly developing a master identity database of Virginia residents for use by state agencies.
The state enterprise record — the master electronic ID database — would help agencies ferret out fraud and help residents do business electronically with the state more easily, officials said.
While officials say the e-ID initiative will be limited in scope and access, it comes at a time of growing public concern about electronic privacy, identity theft and government intrusion.
“It makes it easier to compromise your privacy,” said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. “They’re using DMV for some other purpose than driving.”
DMV points out that, in today’s world, state driver’s licenses are the fundamental identification documents used by most Americans.
State officials say participation in the e-ID system will be voluntary, but the reason that the state has been moving to offer “privacy-enhancing credentials” to Virginia residents is the increasing number of government services offered online.
However, “anything you make more accessible and efficient for the user, you potentially open up for opportunities for risk, for attack,” said Robby Demeria, executive director of RichTech, Richmond’s technology council.
The first state agency using the largely federally funded Commonwealth Authentication Service system will be the Department of Social Services, aiming to satisfy federal Medicaid requirements under the Affordable Care Act and to reduce eligibility fraud and errors. The system goes live Tuesday.
Four state agencies are now involved in Virginia’s e-ID initiative: DMV, the state’s “ID professionals”; the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, which runs the state’s IT systems; the Department of Social Services; and the Department of Medical Assistance Services.
DMV has the records of about 5.9 million licensed drivers and ID card holders. Some of that information — names, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers — will form the core of the state’s identity authentication system.
So far there’s been no public discussion in Virginia of the state’s electronic personal identity initiative or the use of the Internet for increasingly more transactions with the state government.
“When we allow governments to do that,” said Virginia ACLU’s Gastanaga, “it facilitates and empowers things that we might not want to have happen if the wrong people get into power.”
The state does not plan to hold public hearings on the Commonwealth Authentication Service system, officials said, but Demeria with RichTech contends “there’s plenty of reason for us to have a public discussion, debate, [and] consideration.”
“We want to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed before we execute,” he said.
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