Tag Archive for: government

The United Kingdom plans to unveil a method of logging on to government run sites with one’s social media account information. The idea is that by logging on through Facebook, users will authenticate their identity without having to remember multiple usernames and passwords.

John-Paul Ford Rojas, of The Telegraph in London, reports this plan has been met with immediate criticism and concerns over privacy. Afterall, you make life easy on cyber-criminals if you use the same password for every site you join.

Some counter measures will be taken. For example, for those accessing government sites on a mobile phone, there will be verification that the phone being used is also the phone number assigned to the person logging in. There will also be a check of GPS and additional security questions.

The plan would allow users to access services such as applying for licenses, tax credits and presumably signing up for utilities. Though it is expected that users will be able to start the application process for a passport online, physical ID would still be required at another stage of the process.

Still, the security measures are certainly not infallible and critics of the proposed plan have been numerous and vocal. For those of us in other countries, it’s nice to know the UK will beta test this idea for the rest of us.

Facebook, Twitter and, perhaps to a lesser extent, other social media platforms have become a public forum where ideas, opinions and news are exchanged. Peter M. Gunn, of Huffington Post, argues that because social media is a essentially a public service, it’s time to take it out of the private sector and into the public one.

Social media companies have, without a doubt, changed the way we communicate. But then, fire stations changed the way we fought fire and they began as private entities. There’s actually a good argument that your privacy would be better protected by a government run social media site than it is on Facebook. For example, when is the last time the Post Office ‘shared’ your personal information with another company? Now, when is the last time Facebook ‘shared’ your email address, demographic stats or browsing habits?

Also, Facebook and Twitter can’t protect First Amendment rights. Thanks to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which says law enforcement can gain access to electronic documents with only a subpoena, they can’t protect Fourth Amendment rights, either.

Perhaps, rather than the broad step of government run socia media, stricter regulations on existing social media could be put into place. Considering the deep pockets of the existing companies, however, and their current investment in lobbying, that seems unlikely to occur.

Certainly, there could exist a public-owned social media alternative that protects your freedoms, while the privately-owned alternatives continue to thrive. Case in point, the US Post Office doesn’t run FedEx or UPS out of business. It comes down to how much protection you want for your online communication.