Startling Incompetence at ANSI Standards Group

I have always regarded standard-setting organizations as serious players who take care to keep slightly boring the work of establishing uniformity in products and protocols. But a press release from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) may cause me to reassess.

IDSP Issues Report Calling for National Identity Verification Standard” is the release, and it’s bristling with error and malformed policy assertions. IDSP is the “Identity Theft Prevention and Identity Management Standards Panel,” an ANSI subgroup.

Take this doozy:

[T]he Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) and the REAL ID Act of 2005 require verification of identity prior to the issuance of birth certificates and driver’s licenses / ID cards, respectively. However, the IRTPA regulations have not yet been released even in draft form and the REAL ID regulations do not provide practical guidance on how to corroborate a claim of identity under different circumstances.

Folks, REAL ID repealed the identity security provisions in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. (It’s a good bet that regulations for a repealed law aren’t going to move out of draft form for a very long time, eh?) And REAL ID does not require verification of identity prior to issuance of birth certificates. What could that even mean?! “Hey you—little baby—let me see some ID before I issue you your birth certificate.”

The release repeats the tired mantra that 9/11 terrorists got U.S. identity documents—“some by fraud.” The 9/11 Commission dedicated three-quarters of a page to its identity recommendations—out of 400 substantive pages—and neither the commission nor anyone since has shown how denying people U.S. identity documents would prevent terrorism.

Are there needs for identity standards? Of course. And there are a lot of projects in a lot of places working on that. If an organization doesn’t know the law, and doesn’t know how the subject matter it’s dealing with functions in society, I don’t know how it could possibly be relied on to set appropriate standards.

ANSI should take a look at this subgroup and see if its work is actually competent. Judging by this press release, it’s not.