The Top 10 Hot Identity Topics: A Smart Card Alliance Identity Council White Paper

An in-depth report on issues affecting identity management and protection

Although different people may define privacy differently, everyone would agree that it is important. Another critical point is the recognition that individuals should be in control of their identities. Personal choice should determine whether an individual discloses identity information. However, non-disclosure of one’s identity may mean denial of a service to that individual. For example, the REAL ID Act of 2005 defines the requirements for identity proofing by states, who must issue compliant driver’s licenses starting in 2008. The Act requires U.S. citizens who wish to access services such as flying on airplanes to present themselves and a compliant government-issued ID. Without such an ID, they will not be permitted to fly.

Identity is clearly a valuable commodity to an identity thief or a terrorist. By stealing another person’s identity, somebody can cause a great deal of financial harm or gain access to services to which the thief is not entitled. Stronger ways of assuring and trusting identity are needed to prevent such theft.

Identity programs already affect how our society operates today.

·         Many countries are beginning to issue electronic passports that include a smart card chip. These ePassports will deliver the passport holder’s identity credential to an official accurately and securely. Such capabilities will make it more difficult to commit passport fraud or masquerade as somebody else. Passports will become a highly trusted credential for a citizen. Similarly, proposals are being considered for identity cards for citizens who routinely cross U.S. land borders. These proposals include requiring a biometric identifier, to ensure that the person presenting the card is truly the owner of the card. 

·         The U.S. Government is committed to satisfying President Bush’s Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, which requires all government employees and contractors to be issued a credential that will be interoperable across the entire Federal government. By October 2006, every agency is required to start issuing smart card-based identity cards conforming to Federal Information Processing Standard 201. Biometric identifiers will form the foundation for identity verification. With the use of smart card technology and privacy-enhancing biometric templates, the person’s biometric can be matched locally, either on the card itself or in the local terminal, eliminating the need to go online to biometric databases for every verification. 

·         Plans to issue identity cards to frequent, trusted travelers is another example of how a person’s identity will be presented to gain access to a specific service – in this case, access to expedited security check lines at airports. These cards are also likely to include biometric identifiers to bind the user to their credential.


Identity presentation is one of the most important aspects of modern society and is an important part of a person’s life. As we embrace the information age, where data is a valuable commodity, it is essential to use adequate security techniques to preserve each person’s identity and privacy. 

A citizen is entitled to identity protection. A person’s identity should remain private and be disclosed in a secure and trusted form only when the person chooses and only to whom the person chooses. The party receiving the presented identity should be able to verify that the person presenting the identity is the person entitled to present it, and the credential itself should be authenticated. Once we establish a chain of trust for identity, many areas of our society will benefit. Electronic commerce (ecommerce) can become a trusted transaction environment. The nation’s transportation infrastructure will become secure, as travelers are better identified, making it exponentially harder for a terrorist to gain entry using a false identity. 

The Smart Card Alliance recognizes the importance of identity in society and the critical need to protect it and be able to trust it. Smart card technology has proven itself to be a valuable tool for achieving these goals.

In the following pages we explore 10 of the main identity challenges facing our society today. 

Identity Topic #1: Identity Theft—When You Don’t Own Your Identity!

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is the nation’s fastest-growing crime in the United States. By many accounts, it is the fastest-growing crime globally.