U.S. Post Office should be the place to obtain high-assurance credentials
MorphoTrust announced that travelers will be able to enroll in the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program at H&R Block locations in 27 states. TSA’s PreCheck is an expedited security-screening program available at 150 airports where travelers undergo a background check and are able to get through security quicker, without having to take off coats, shoes, belts and leave laptops in bags.
Since December 2013 the TSA has enrolled 1.5 million consumers into PreCheck and has 330 enrollment centers, which will expand to more than 400 with the new partnership.
What’s intriguing to me about the MorphoTrust announcement is the partnership with a third party to get individuals vetted and enrolled into an identity program. An obstacle to getting individuals high-assurance credentials is the vetting process as online identity vetting isn’t exactly foolproof.
Banks and mobile phone stores have often been mentioned as places that can do background checks for issuing high-assurance credentials for use online. The other location that has supposedly been gearing up to issue credentials is the U.S. Post Office.
The Post Office is already the go to location for passport applications. It’s also the agency behind Connect.Gov, the service that will enable consumers to use existing credentials to access government web sites.
Government officials have told me that the Post Office is gearing up to issue digital credentials but the agency didn’t return requests for comment. On its face it makes sense. Employees are already trained to look and gather breeder documents. The possible next step would be adding a biometric component but that might not even be necessary depending on how the credential would be used.
Of course consumers would have to pay for his credential and service. A recent LaunchKey survey says that 84% of consumers are ready for alternatives to passports. But how much would they be willing to spend is a big question.
Estimates of PIV cost per employee per year range from $50 to $150 depending on who’s talking. It’s highly unlikely that any Post Office issued credential would be that high as the vast majority of consumers are unlikely to want to pay that much. But $100 for a five-year credential might by attractive to some consumers.
But there are a myriad of other questions when it comes to the Post Office issuing a credential as well. What will be the form factor? Will the technology be usable and frictionless and most important, who will accept it?
We are in the age of a data breach where passwords are often the first thing corrupted. Having a place where consumers can apply in-person for identity credentials may be a necessity until there’s a better way to ensure someone’s identity online.