Monday, April 30, 2012

Future sense

Today New Zealand Post and the Department of Internal Affairs announced they are working on developing an online service called “RealMe” which, they say, “will enable people to more easily interact with public and private sector organisations.” According to Peter MacKenzie, the Identity and Data Services General Manager at the Department of Internal Affairs, he service:
“Will let people access many services with a single logon and also prove who they are online when they need to. RealMe will give people control over their identity and other official information.”
The official site has some information about how it will work, but basically it’s a user-defined, government-controlled system for storing personal identity information. The user decides what information will be shared and with whom, but the idea is it will be a one-stop-shop for proving who a user is in order to access various public or private online services.

Various private companies have proposed similar-sounding schemes in the past, but the fact they were private companies meant that there was sometimes resistance from would-be users and companies that might use the service: Not everyone felt comfortable with the idea of giving their identity information to a for-profit business.

In New Zealand, we have very strong privacy laws, so much so that different branches of government can’t access someone’s information unless they give permission, and sharing is extremely limited and proscribed by law. They are, in other words, the most trustworthy to do such a thing in New Zealand.

I like the concept of this RealMe, and I’m excited to see what they come up with on launch. I have to admit, though, that the first use I thought of for a system of certified, verifiable online identification wasn’t some mundane government service or private business transaction, it was online voting. I don’t know if they’re even considering that as a possibility, but it certainly could be developed in that direction.

Naturally, I’ll be watching this as it develops. I hope it’s as good as it promises to be. This time, I think we might finally catch up with the future.

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