DHS Awards $193K for a Standards Based Approach to an Alternative Identifier to the Social Security Number

Distributed ledger technologies (DLT) and blockchain solutions can improve the delivery of government services by providing greater visibility into business operations, enhancing transparency of public service operations, and automating paper-based processes. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has awarded $193,000 to SecureKey Technologies, based in Toronto, Canada, to develop the capability to implement an alternative identifier to the social security number. The Phase 1 award was made under S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) re-release of Preventing Forgery & Counterfeiting of Certificates and Licenses solicitation, which identifies five additional use cases supporting DHS mission needs.

SecureKey Technologies Phase 1 award project, “Alternative Identifier to the Social Security Number,” will facilitate the DHS Social Security Number (SSN) reduction initiative to support the DHS Office of Privacy Policy Instruction 047-01-010, “Social Security Number Collection and Use Reduction.” The solution would allow a globally unique, meaningless and verifiable identifier to be issued to individuals. This number would not reveal personally identifiable information and could not be reused for cross tracking or as a shared secret. It would allow individuals to obtain their identifier from a trusted authority and securely share it with legitimate organizations. Individuals would be in control of sharing the identifier and would be able to see a history of organizations that obtained the identifier. Websites receiving the identifier from an individual would not be able to link the individual across systems or organizations without an audit trail or regulatory need, such as within government agencies or financial institutions with multiple lines of business.

“The widespread, dual usage of the SSN as both identifier and authenticator has created significant identity theft concerns,” said Anil John, SVIP technical director. “SecureKey will implement a system based on World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards, such as Decentralized Identifiers, that will allow for the issuance of a globally unique, meaningless but resolvable and verifiable identifier that will not reveal personally identifiable information and cannot be used for tracking purposes.”

To enable DHS components to issue and verify identifiers and credentials, this solicitation sought start-up companies with solutions that use global, interoperable standards for decentralized identifiers and resilient registries. The overall goal is to enhance security while employing privacy-respecting mechanisms that implement standards-based, multi-platform interoperability.

Read more at DHS S&T

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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