A French company wants to digitize your identifiers

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Imagine all your information and documents stored on your phone. We’ve gotten used to carrying our banking and payment systems, address and phone books, and social media apps on our phones, but now even imagine your passport and driver’s license in the form of a personal QR code. . Imagine being asked to verify your identity not with a physical ID, but with the phone in your pocket.

Thales Group, a technology company based in France, asks you to imagine such a reality.

In October 2020, Thales posted a video on YouTube, showcasing its digital ID wallet and bragging about its many practical qualities:

The idea of ​​storing your information in an easily accessible place can be practical, but security and privacy concerns should not be overlooked or diminished. Hackers and data sharing are real threats to personal information that we currently face with the amount of data we already keep online.

For example, last week a vulnerability was discovered in a popular software tool. Experts call it “the biggest and most critical vulnerability of the past decade.” NPR explains:

The vulnerability, nicknamed “Log4Shell”, was rated 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 [by] the Apache Software Foundation, which oversees the development of the software. Anyone with the exploit can gain full access to an unpatched computer that is using the software[.]

“Security Experts Rush To Fix Critical Software Flaws Threatening Industries Around The World” at NPR

In his November article on Republic of Technology, Veronica Combs appoints John Evans, Senior Technology Advisor at World Wide Technology. Evans advises that these platforms use designs like blockchain technology that include cryptology, distributed data, and multi-factor authentication. This way, if a hacker got his hands on one piece of information, he wouldn’t have the door open to all the other information stored digitally in the same “wallet”.

Aaron Ansari, vice president of cloud security at Trend Micro, is pessimistic about companies taking the necessary security precautions. “I don’t see this as something happening,” he told Combs, “in fact I see the exact opposite. It seems more and more that there is an overbreadth of a state and federal point of view. ”

Government concerns

Speaking of state and federal government overbreadth, the first example Thales provided in its video of the many qualities of its digital ID portfolio is its ability to facilitate communication between governments and citizens. “Right now I’m reminding Lucy of the appointment she needs to make for her mandatory vaccination,” said the voice from the digital wallet.

Thales is a global company with “more than 80,000 employees on five continents”. This number includes 2,400 employees located in eight Chinese cities. The Chinese Communist Party is known for its numerous human rights violations (eg, the surveillance and imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims and the “disappearance” of critics).

Does Thales have guarantees in place to ensure that this technology is not abused by governments like China? Moreover, do they have stipulations to ensure that even the governments of free societies cannot abuse the direct access granted to them to citizens?

Thales did not respond to questions for comment.

Thales is not the only one to want to replace the physical wallet. Earlier this year, Apple announced efforts to switch its users to digital credentials. Several states as well as the federal government are also exploring the option of digital identifiers.

Earlier this year, the ACLU released a report on the privacy, fairness and freedom issues surrounding the advent of digital driver’s licenses. The bulk of the report is devoted to “seven potential immediate privacy issues” and “a number of other implications and potential longer-term issues”.

Potential issues identified by the ACLU include police access to people’s phones, centralized identity tracking, lack of personal control over identity data, and vulnerability to hackers. Looking further into the future, the ACLU has expressed concern about an expansion of the information contained in digital IDs and digital IDs made mandatory.

Comments on the Thales YouTube video have been disabled.


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