Support strengthens for global ID standards

Interoperability across international departments and jurisdictions is essential to protect citizens and encourage international e-commerce, said former Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Robert Bonner.

After 9/11, Bonner put in a funding request for around $US500 million to set up a variety of projects and expand technologies in order to simultaneously boost security and prevent interruptions to a smooth-running economy.

"We could not have succeeded in achieving those twin goals without technology in integrated systems," he said at a Strategic Policy Institute seminar in Canberra on Wednesday.

CBP started building its automated targeting system in 2001 with help from Unisys which provided support for requirement analysis, systems and software design and artificial intelligence technologies for the system, which collects, collates and analyses data on cargo and people.

"Our automated targeting system could be improved even more, with more visibility into the supply chain, for instance. More visibility and more data translates into greater security and more efficiency," he said.

Bonner said that through using the technology in its automated targeting systems, the CBP processed a lot more cargo shipments (around 30,000 of which arrive in US ports each day) than it would have been able to otherwise.

"We inspected two and a half million cargo containers that were seeking entry into the US last year, which is a six-fold increase in the amount of inspections pre-9/11. The important thing to note here though, is that all those inspections were targeted ones based on risk, not random checks."

While biometrics and identity authentication provide huge benefits to CBP in terms of ensuring more efficiency at the same time as security, there is still some policy work to be done in achieving global acceptance of such technologies, Bonner said.

"There are still some privacy concerns about identity management and biometrics. However, Unisys research has shown that people worldwide are prepared to share data about themselves if they trust the government to protect that data and if they can see a clear benefit in terms of benefit and convenience gained," he said.

"If an American (or Australian) must still go through a magnetometer and take his or her shoes off each time he or she travels into the country, and wait in long queues, there is no convenience gained for the public from biometrics. Unfortunately the security benefits are not enough [to sway international public opinion.]"

Meanwhile, delegates at the 15th World Congress on Information Technology voted to ratify three policy proposals put forward by Unisys designed to help create global standards and practices for identity authentication.

The proposals are that international businesses and governments collaborate to define and promote global standards for the development of internationally trusted, interoperable baseline electronic credentials used to authenticate a person's identity.

The other proposals were that standards for electronic credentials must be built on business processes and not just the underlying technologies, and that to address privacy concerns organizations issuing electronic credentials must demonstrate and publicize the safeguards used to protect an individual's personal information.

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