The Commerce Department will ultimately hold dominion over the creation and maintenance of trusted cyber identities, according to White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt.
Schmidt called the Commerce Department "the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government" to concentrate efforts to produce a secure "identity ecosystem" for ensuring secure online transactions and reduce fraud.
As part of the Obama administration's efforts, a second draft of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace is due in a matter of months.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke described the initiative while speaking at the the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research:
"We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy, and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities."
While centralizing authority over cyber identities in the Commerce Department might alleviate some concerns civil-liberties groups had about agencies such as the NSA and DHS heading up secure online identity enforcement, privacy advocates should still be wary of Commerce's cozy relationship with business.
Marketers have been pushing the privacy envelope while operating in an environment with few regulations by tracking internet user habits in an effort to better target advertising efforts, and have created a cottage industry that gathers a great deal of information on consumers.