The GSA is working to expand the Social Security Administration’s digital identity system
The GSA is working to expand the Social Security Administration’s digital identity system

The GSA is working to expand the Social Security Administration’s digital identity system

The General Services Administration wants to copy a system that the Social Security Administration has implemented over the last three years to reduce identity theft in the financial services sector for use in providing digital services by various other agencies.

In 2018, Congress instructed SSA to set up an electronic consent-based verification system for social security, now known as the ECBSV, to help prevent criminals from stealing the identities of victims, most of whom are children, according to Kate Wechsler, CEO of Consumer First Coalition.

Wechsler spoke with Phil Lam, GSA’s CEO on Monday, at an event hosted by the Better Identity Coalition, a group of companies pushing the government to move forward with secure digitization of identity verification.

She said that before the system was in place, SSA’s identity verification was “paper-based and very slow to the point that it honestly was not helpful, especially in our increasingly digital environment for credit applications and decisions. You know when you got the result from the SSA that it was not a fight, the criminal has got their credit and is gone. “

Congress specifically drafted the law to provide access to the system to financial institutions, including credit bureaus, but with the advent of digital services, Lam wants to see greater use of the SSA model across the government.

“Something that the GSA is particularly interested in helps in a way to promote the concept [behind] what SSA is doing around strong authoritative attribute verification, ”he said. “How can we do that with other agencies like the postal service for example with addresses, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs maybe with the passport, and maybe even [the Transportation Security Administration] with a known travel number, and how do we bring together these various public authorities so that we can carry out identity-level authentication directly to the authoritative source? “

Lam sought to allay privacy concerns about collaborating with private sector partners, arguing that such systems would reduce the amount of replicated personally identifiable information that flows unnecessarily.

“The work that SSA has done with ECBSV, frankly, is groundbreaking for public authorities to allow,” he said. “They do it in a privacy way where they do not send out information. They just say yes or no.”

The question of what constitutes an “authoritative source” was highlighted by the Internal Revenue Service’s plan tostarts this summer-require taxpayers to submit selfies through a company called to access their accounts.

Fight for the Future received many emails from people looking for ways to avoid giving up their biometric information, and thousands of people signed on to a petition to state legislators asking them to put an end to this practice, “said Caitlin Seeley George, campaign director of the Digital Rights Group.” Everything about’s process is invasive, sinister and insecure. The federal government should abandon plans to to require millions of Americans to use this face recognition system to complete their tax … the company claims personal verification options but has no information on their website about where and how to access those options. “

Lam said the personal option is a must-have for identity verification systems, as many of the people seeking public services may not have a smartphone.

“They may not be able to take that selfie,” he said. “So we also need to keep focusing here, not just on high technology, but how do we reach out to the other individuals so we can give them fair access to public resources?”

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