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Facebook Wants to Issue Your IRL Offline ID & Internet Driver’s License

Oct 17, 20115 mins
Data and Information SecurityFacebookMicrosoft

At the start of this year, it seemed as if Facebook wanted to utilize its identity infrastructure already on millions of websites in order to issue your Internet driver's license. Apparently that wasn't aiming quite take-over-the-world high enough, since it now appears as if Facebook, via a trademark application, wants to issue your in-real-life offline identity cards as well.

At the start of this year, it seemed as if Facebook wanted to utilize its identity infrastructure already on millions of websites in order to issue your Internet driver’s license. Apparently that wasn’t aiming quite high enough, since it now appears as if Facebook has future plans to issue your offline identity cards as well. Facebook filed for a trademark for “goods and services” to use Facebook on “cards, namely business cards and non-magnetically encoded identity cards” that could be read by NFC and RFID-enabled devices. If that didn’t make you shiver, then the new trademark application states, the “business card and identity card design services” and “printing services” would be for “facilitating social and business networking through the provision of data for use on business and identity cards.”

Like Google Plus, Facebook regards pseudonyms as a sin and wants to kill off anonymity. Many sites have cut back on comment spam, though, by requiring Facebook Connect which in turn requires a user’s real identity. Countless millions of websites have avoided the headaches and hassles of managing their own identity system by implementing the free and easy code for Facebook Connect to manage online identities. In fact, logging in, “liking” and sharing via Facebook has literally become a critical part of the Internet’s identity infrastructure.

Another emerging potential giant gamer-changer is the ability for people to use their mobile devices with near field communication (NFC) technology to interact with everyday situations, objects and people. NFC can be used to exchange data between two devices that are close to each other. The Google Wallet app is expected to be huge since it will store virtual copies of your credit cards for easy and fast payment at checkout. Other eCommerce NFC apps could be used for boarding passes or for purchasing airline, movie, concert, or other event tickets. On the social networking side, NFC allows for fast file sharing, to pass out electronic business cards, to enter a multiplayer mobile game, or to “touch NFC devices together to Facebook friend each other.”

Why wouldn’t Facebook want to take advantage of its “identity management” to conquer the offline world as well? The filed trademark suggests the Facebook ID cards could work with NFC and RFID. “Smart tap” RFID and magstripe products “have been used in many different fields, such as finance, telecommunications, security, tax, parking, hospitals, retail and hotels.” Even Windows 8 will include built-in NFC functionality, sending hardware and software firms scrambling to take advantage of the tap-to-share NFC RFID functionality.

When President Obama put the U.S. Commerce Department in charge of an “identity ecosystem,” a cybersecurity attempt to give each American a unique Internet ID, many folks were leery to trust a government-sponsored ID system. This was around the time that Facebook’s potential plans of wanting to issue your Internet driver’s license came to light. As Facebook gobbles up opportunities to offer more goods and services, could it be aiming to be its own online and offline ID system, and then offer a credit card service at a later date? Put that way, Facebook could the first and last stop for about anything.

How many times has Facebook made automatic opt-in changes that users had to go opt-out in order to protect their privacy? The cybersecurity push to verify online identity is huge. However it seems ironic that Facebook which continues to outrage users by making horrible privacy mistakes, and does not seem to know what privacy-by-design even means, would be declared as the company to issue security and privacy-enhancing management of any kind. As for security, users are usually the weak link and very susceptible to social engineering. While it’s not exactly Facebook’s fault, nearly every day Sophos’ Graham Cluley sounds the alarm on Naked Security of Facebook phishing scams that hook unsuspecting users, hijack accounts or infect systems with malware.

Of course it seemed like an asinine idea to me when, nearly a year ago, a New Zealand bank became the world’s first to allow online Facebook banking; if logged into Facebook, bank customers could access their banking account information. In light of Facebook’s new trademark application to control in-real-life identities, TMCnet asked, “How long before we hear the TSA say, “Boarding pass and Facebook ID please?”

I can almost hear the big evil muhahaha coming from Zuck with his possible plan to take over and rule the online and offline world with Facebook.

I don’t understand why more people don’t run from and “unfriend” Facebook like this Dear John letter by James Campbell:

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.