For one, the widespread adoption of Facebook's social graph and Facebook Connect by developers means that the enormous social network is well on its way to becoming an identity utility for the Internet. For another, the loss of anonymity online would have dire consequences for marginalized populations or activists in autocratic governments.
Ultimately, said Glazer, NSTIC may not matter in the ways that we expect it to. "I think what will come of this is a fostering of research at levels, including business standards, identity protocols and user experience. I hope that this will be a Manhattan Project for identity, but done in the public eye."
There may be enormous risks to getting this wrong, but then that was equally true of the Apollo Project and Manhattan Project, both of which involved considerably more resources. If the United States is to enable its citizens to engage in more trusted interactions with government systems online, something better than the status quo will have to emerge. One answer will be services like Singly and the Locker Project that enable citizens to aggregate Internet data about ourselves, empowering people with personal data stores. There are new challenges ahead for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), too. "NIST must not only support the development of standards and technology, but must also develop the policy governing the use of the technology," wrote Titus.
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