• on May 29th, 2012 in Strategy & Public Policy | 1 comment
    When online, how do you know who you’re really communicating with? Does that affect your shopping or banking habits? Do you know people who don’t use the Internet much because they are afraid of identity theft? The latest statistics from a Pew Research Center study demonstrate the pull of the Internet: •80 percent of Americans are users, whether through personal computer, tablet, or smartphone; •many of those users do not conduct any kind of commerce; •30 percent have not made a purchase online; •and 40 percent do not bank online. Would a more secure approach to online identity raise those figures? The Office of Inspector General’s new paper Digital Identity: Opportunities for the Postal Service examines the world of digital identity as well as many existing digital authentication solutions, including pilot projects, and potential roles for the Postal Service in the digital identity ecosystem. The paper posits that there is a need for a trusted and neutral body to identify, authenticate, and certify users in a straightforward manner that reduces sign-up friction and maintains privacy with very clear, concise, and enforceable policy guidelines. The Postal Service, given its national presence, physical infrastructure, and history of protecting privacy, could operate in a number of roles: •As a Trusted Third Party Online – The Postal Service could verify individual or business addresses (with permission from each user) for other organizations to facilitate eCommerce or other online transactions. •As an Identity Provider – The Postal Service could offer its own digital identity service, an opt-in service verifying attributes of consumers, businesses and organizations. •Providing in-Person Verification Services – The Postal Service could expand the work it already does for passports and offer in-person verification of mailing addresses through its network of post offices and postal carriers. What do you think? Is there a role for the Postal Service in digital identity? Share your thoughts below!
  • on Nov 14th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 28 comments
    Out of 23 posts in industrialized countries, the U.S. Postal Service is one of the few remaining posts not offering an eMailbox solution to its citizens. And while there are private sector technology industry standouts in the U.S. that have developed widely popular e-mail and secure storage services, their business models sacrifice consumer privacy in the interest of ad-based revenue generation. In an increasingly digital world, it may make sense for the Postal Service to offer eMailbox services in addition to traditional delivery. A consumer would also be able to sign up for an accompanying highly secure data storage area service called the eLockbox, which would provide added security for the archiving of important legal and personal documents with anytime, anywhere secure access. Today many electronic documents, especially financial records, reside primarily on the banks or billers Web site and not with the consumer. The Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center’s new paper eMailbox and eLockbox: Opportunities for the Postal Service (Report Number RARC-WP-12-001) explores these concepts. This white paper is the fourth paper in the Digital series, and presents a case for offering an eMailbox and eLockbox. Some of the paper’s findings include: 1.As communication channels become increasingly consumer-centric, the eMailbox and eLockbox would empower individuals to transition to full electronic delivery at their own pace. 2.The linking of one’s physical identity and address to the eMailbox address will provide high identity assurance necessary for transactions, which require privacy, confidentiality, authentication and non-repudiation such as for legal and financial correspondence. 3.The Postal Service, offers protection from theft, interference, fraud and forgery under federal law, utilizing two law enforcement organizations (the Office of Inspector General and the Inspection Service). 4.Advertising mail would only be allowed from entities registered with the Postal eMailbox system and with the consent of the receiver. Together, the concept of the eMailbox and eLockbox services reflects a natural extension of the Postal Service’s role in the physical world as the trusted custodian of the nation’s address management system. The product provides a digital service linking American households and businesses in a trusted and verifiable way, while empowering consumers to determine the pace and extent of the service’s use. This product suite should be further developed as the organization implements new digital services. What do you think? Would you use a Postal eMailbox? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.
  • on Aug 1st, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 7 comments
    In December 2009, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) obtained exclusive rights to the “.post” top-level domain for the postal community from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The .post domain joins existing prominent top level domains (such as .com, .edu, and .org), along with recent additions (such as .museum, .biz, and .aero.) The .post domain is intended to provide a secure space for members of the postal community to develop and deploy digital products and services. The .post domain is expected to be available for use by private postal operators, regulators, suppliers, vendors, trade unions, and trade associations. By linking well-established national networks, the UPU hopes .post will allow postal operators and customers to reap the benefits of a global physical/digital network that permits postal service providers and end users to connect quickly and securely to other end users around the world. The .post domain could be an appropriate platform for a variety of services. Common suggestions include: a global track and trace system linking the existing systems of the posts; the creation of an accessible database holding a universal and global addressing system; and a feature allowing consumers to decide whether to have an item delivered to a physical address or an electronic address. One approach, at the core of the OIG Risk Analysis Research Center's (RARC) digital strategy paper, Expanding the Postal Platform, would be to give every postal customer an e-mail address and digital ID. The .post top level domain could be a platform to support implementation of this strategy. The development of the .post top level domain raises a number of interesting questions: •Should the U.S. Postal Service use .post as a platform for offering digital services? •What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the .post domain, rather than .com or .gov? •Are there potential applications for .post that the postal media has not addressed? •Would .post improve the Postal Service brand by helping differentiate the Postal Service from other services in the digital space? •Does the choice of domain name affect the quality of service provided or the effectiveness of marketing such services? Let us know what you think! This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.

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