By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
WASHINGTON (Worthy News) – The United States edged closer to rolling out a digital identity document system for its more than 337 million citizens despite concerns it will lead to more control by the government and other institutions, Worthy News established Thursday.
The move by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to advance the Improving Digital Identity (ID) Act still stops short of mandating national IDs.
However, the Committee voted to create a task force to set up standards and a voluntary program for states, local, tribal and territorial governments to verify identities online for “high-value transactions.”
About a half-dozen states have reportedly rolled out mobile driver licenses in the pilot phase. National standards would help ensure these new IDs are secure and provide a guide for others states, supporters of the bill say.
The bill backers also claim digital IDs offer greater privacy than traditional forms of identification and help minimize some risks associated with physical documents such as driver’s licenses and passports.
“Technology has the potential to dramatically improve the security and privacy of identity credentials and enable easier access to the financial system,” said U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming state.
She apparently referred to facial recognition techniques and other identity techniques on devices such as smartphones. Lummis said she introduced the bill with Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona to “work toward digital identity standards.”
“It doesn’t make sense that Wyoming citizens have to constantly overshare sensitive identity information with government agencies and businesses, which are honeypots all too often targeted by hackers and identity thieves,” Lummis argued.
In a statement obtained by Worthy News, she claimed the legislation will “give the people of Wyoming,” which she represents, “more control over their identity.”
But critics warn that introducing digital IDs can lead to fewer civil liberties and call it one of the most prominent digital threats to human rights.
Rights advocates fear digital IDs make it even easier for, say, financial institutions to crack down on, for instance, outspoken Christians or others with views they may not like.
Bank giant JP Morgan Chase recently froze the bank account of the National Committee for Religious Freedom (NCRF), a nonpartisan nonprofit founded by former Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback.
Brownback, who served as ambassador-at-Large for international religious freedom for then President Donald J. Trump, did not explain why the account was frozen.
It also emerged that PayPal, the online payment system used by millions of Americans, planned to fine users $2,500 in damages if they were found guilty of spreading “misinformation.”
PayPal has since reassured users the policy won’t be introduced after a backlash, including mass account cancellations by users and a sharp drop in the company’s stock price.
“Digital is often touted as the ‘future,’ and many people cast such a transition as inevitable,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Digital is not always better — especially when systems are exclusively digital,” Stanley added in published remarks.
“There’s a reason that most jurisdictions have spurned electronic voting in favor of paper ballots, for example,” Stanley wrote. “With voting software in some states vulnerable to outside interference, paper ballots increasingly appear to be much safer.”
The debate about digital IDs is held while the U.S. and other countries, including states of the European Union, consider rolling out a central bank digital currency, or CBDC.
“While the Federal Reserve has made no decisions on whether to pursue or implement a central bank digital currency, or CBDC, we have been exploring the potential benefits and risks of CBDCs,” said the Board of Directors of the U.S. Federal Reserve system.
The statement, seen by Worthy News, added that America’s central bank is exploring the potential benefits of CBDCs “from a variety of angles, including through technological research and experimentation. Our key focus is on whether and how a CBDC could improve on an already safe and efficient U.S. domestic payments system.”
Critics fear that could contribute to ‘Big Brother’ control over people’s lives, similar to the controversial social credit system in communist-run China.
But U.S. legislators seem to move towards more digitalization of Americans’ lives anyway, reflecting developments worldwide.
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