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Can Digital Government Protect Your Identity?
New Harvard workshop report recommends best practices for privacy, authentication and identity management
DGRC Communications Manager

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Quis custodes ipsos custodiet?         
- Juvenal         

"Who will watch these selfsame watchmen?" the satirist Juvenal wrote of the ancient Roman government - though he could scarcely have foreseen the computer hacking, digital fraud and identity theft that threaten the order and security of our burgeoning online society.

This is one of the central questions addressed in a groundbreaking report on identity management published recently by Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

"A critical element of authentication is that the authenticator must also be authenticated," says "Best Practices in Managing Identity in Digital Government."
Issued from an April workshop sponsored at the Kennedy School by the Digital Government program, the report offers best practices for protecting identity, privacy and authentication in digital government work.

"Identification is the point at which security and privacy collide," says Harvard Prof. L. Jean Camp, who organized the workshop. "Yet construction and confirmation of identity are being fundamentally changed by digital networked interaction. Identification sometimes enables auditing; yet increasingly it enables theft."

The NSF/Harvard workshop on identity brought together technical and organizational, governmental and private sector organizations to struggle with the path to private and secure digital government, Camp says. Participants contributed in advance by writing scenarios including ubiquitous identity theft, business as usual, and the concept of a single national identifier.

The workshop also explored measures such as encryption, biometric authentication and open-source security.

And it sought to delineate between the security needs of society and the privacy needs of individuals: "Privacy is a problem that is easier to solve with consideration beforehand," says the report. Privacy by design is better than post-hoc liability. ... Privacy is better built-in than bolted on."

The full report is now online in the dg.o Library and in the Workshops directory.