Written byJake Williams
A secure way for citizens to access government services online — without identifying yourself in person — could be on its way to North Carolina, and maybe even the rest of the country.
North Carolina officials want to get away from requiring the public to meet with state employees in person to access programs in the state Department of Health and Human Services by developing a reliable and secure electronic identification system. In response, the state’s electronic identification, or eID, initiative has been gaining momentum since Massachusetts-based MorphoTrust received a two-year $1.47 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology last year.
The NIST grant will help MorphoTrust investigate and develop secure technology that adheres to the White House’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, and put them in place in North Carolina. If the technology is successful in North Carolina, it could be applicable to the rest of the country someday as well.
“[We want to] make it possible for, in the future, large numbers of Americans to have a highly-trustworthy online credential,” MorphoTrust’s senior director of solutions strategy told StateScoop. “Right now, we see things like knowledge-based authentication questions, user-attested username and password kinds of things. We’re really trying to bridge that gap between mid-level trust and high-level trust so that all kinds of new, secure transactions can be executed online.”
MorphoTrust’s eID pilot in North Carolina is not the company’s only digital identity undertaking. The company is also behind a pilot in Iowa to examine using digital driver’s licenses. The difference, however, is in how the technology is deployed. In Iowa, digital driver’s licenses would be used in a variety of situations where an individual might need to show a physical form of identification — from entering a federal building to getting pulled over.
With the Iowa application, MorphoTrust has worked with the state’s Transportation Department to ensure that it meets the requirements established under the REAL ID Act, which Congress passed in 2005.
Under the law, the federal government established minimum security standards for license issuance. Now in 2015, for the first time, federal officials may have the ability to reject the use of identification that does not meet REAL ID standards.
“As we work with states on digital driver’s license initiatives, we’re going to have to work with them to make sure that elements of the REAL ID law that are applicable are cared for,” MorphoTrust’s Mark DiFraia said. “We’re also going to need to work with them if they think there are things that we need to work tighter on updating or changing so we can work together in a digital world.”
Currently, American Samoa, Arizona, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, New York and Oklahoma licenses don’t comply with REAL ID standards, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
In North Carolina, however, MorphoTrust’s pilot is not working on a physical form of identification that would require REAL ID compliance. Instead, the eID pilot is solely dedicated to online interactions.