Phorm Teaches Us How to Secure National ID

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Phorm — recently popular for privacy/DPI technology — teaches us how to make National ID safe.

I was just writing National ID: USA Already Has it and the realization that my past employer clearly shows us how to make sure that an isolated National Healthcare Number (NHN) doesn’t mix with a National Taxation Number (NTN).

A strong issue with National ID is that it can be linked to other ID cards via databases that cause all of our information to link up. Of course, such a linkage quickly shows re-used SSNs (NTN), but it also brings innocent-but-suspicious behavior to light, causing a huge burden of self-defense and explanation.

Phorm’s system is simple: it gives a subscriber a randomly-generated unique number, and uses only that to refer to a subscriber’s behavior (in order to queue up relevant advertising). The beauty of the system is that the subscriber can get a new ID at any time. In this case, the system merely gives a new ID, and the subscriber looks to the system like a new user. Subscriber history expires and gets tossed automatically.

American Express — and some Visa cards — give users one-time-use numbers for online shopping; this is a number than can be used just like any other credit number, but Amex will only accept it once. In this way, the user avoids the risk of re-used numbers: the second time the credit number is used — for example, re-running transactions to create duplicates — Amex refuses the transaction.

These systems show how a National Healthcare Number can be frequently changed to invalidate any linkage that might “accidentally” be created between NTNs and NHNs. Mind you, at the speed of computers and databases, if there are multiple links, then the one abberant link is quickly restored based on the trust on the other links.

The real trick is to change some links, and corrupt the others, so that the trust itself yields inaccurate linkages, reducing trust on that linkage. …but that’s a pipe-dream bourne of Neal Stephenson.

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