It is getting harder for us to prove who we are

January 22, 2020  |  Bob Covello

I had an interesting experience the other day.  I had to renew my driver’s license. 

In previous renewal cycles, this was no big deal.  One could just visit the local Department of Motor Vehicles (with a bagged lunch since it was usually a multi-hour wait), read an eye chart, take a horribly unflattering photo, and be on their way with a new license.  Now, however there is a new driver’s license being issued in the USA that is required if you want to fly on a domestic flight, and you do not have a valid passport.  (In defense of the nation’s motor vehicle offices, it should be mentioned that the license procedure has been streamlined, and the process now takes less than 20 minutes.)

This is an improvement in the identification verification process, as many people do not have a passport, but they do have a driver’s license.  The problem I encountered is my ability to prove that I am who I say I am.  This was due to the documentation requirements.  One of those requirements is possession of a valid passport.  However, as stated in the previous paragraph, this new license is supposed to be valid in absence of a passport.  I found out that the new license will also be required to enter any Federal Buildings.  This made much more sense, as one is often carrying a driver’s license, but it is rare to carry a passport unless you are going to an airport. 

The other required proofs of identity include: An original Social Security card, or a tax document that contains your full social security number, and a proof of residence, such as a bank statement.

From a physical security perspective, the idea of carrying all of these documents to the motor vehicle office at the same time is horrifying.  These documents represent every form of proof that you are who you say you are.  I can think of no other time that I have ever traveled with so many original documents.

There is another security concern that came to mind as I was in the document gathering phase.  That is, it is getting more difficult to prove where I live.  Most of my utility payments, and financial transactions, are conducted online.  In many cases, I have been forced to “Go Paperless”.   This means that I do not have a printed document to satisfy the “proof of residency” requirement.

As we proceed more towards a fully online, paperless society, I wonder how we will be able to prove various aspects of our identities?  I am not opposed to this new approach, as we need to act to stop the destruction of our environment.

In a previous post, I posited the idea of using a blockchain method for identification.  While it seemed a bit crazy, it was certainly less intrusive than an implanted biochip.  With the movement of all of our lives to a fully online model, perhaps that identification method is not so crazy after all.

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