Europe, the USA and Identity Ecosystems

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Talk introducing NSTIC and COM 238, i.e. the current digital identity policy proposals in the USA and European discussing their similarities, differences and possible conflicts.

In the past two years both the US Government as well as the European Commission have declared their intend to create “Identity Ecosystems” and are actively pursuing the creation of regulatory and technical frameworks for digital authentication of their citizens. Both the USA and the European Union expect the implementation of state-recognized digital identities in the coming three to five years.

The American initiative is called “National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), its European counterpart “electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market“ (COM(2012) 238).

Given the scope of these programs, the number of people affected and the fact that identity technologies necessarily have to negotiate conflicting values of individual liberty and social control, it is reasonable to expect that the developments around NSTIC and COM (2012) 238 will become dominant in the debate on the future of the Internet.

In my talk I will introduce the basics of the White Houses NSTIC initiative and the European Unions COM(2012) 238, explaining the common traits as well as the conflicting aspects of the electronic identity programs of two of the worlds largest and most influential state entities.

I will outline how both programs share the assumption that providing “secure” and “trusted” identities is essential for the future development of the Internet, is necessary to fully realize citizenship status on the Net as well as to foster further economic growth. I will also scrutinize the importance and function of the term “transaction” that is prominent in both NSTIC and COM (2012) 238.

Subsequently I will show that NSTIC and COM (2012) 238 differ fundamentally in their view on the role of the state, of the private sector and of civil society in providing and controlling the standards, protocols and infrastructures of digital identities. Here I will outline how the NSTIC employs a neoliberal market rhetoric, declaring that “the Identity Ecosystem should be market- driven“ while the European Union follows an etaistic vision of governmental identity provision. In this context I will show the importance of the different approaches between Europe and the USA concerning the relation of existing offline and online identity solutions.

The goal of the talk is to raise awareness to the importance of these programs, to enable an understanding of the paradoxes of digital identity provision and its function in both enabling and sustaining statehood and capitalism. The talk will close with a statement locating the differences between the European and the United States approach in the larger conflict on the question of means and legitimacy of intervening and regulating capitalism.

Duration 40 mins + 20 min discussion, presentation style will be slides and accompanying talk, discussion afterwards.

Talk ID
Saal 2
11:30 a.m.
Ethics, Society & Politics
Type of
Christoph Engemann
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