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Concept Paper
Identity Services Architecture

CheapID is a

Appropriate Technology Meets Digital Identity

CheapID is a digital identity standard designed for use in conflicted environment like those many refugees or disaster victims may find themselves in.

Watch a 35 minute technical introduction here.

About the CheapID Card
The CheapID card on the left is sterile. Without the appropriate barcode reading system, no identification information can be recovered from the card. Even with the tools to read the card, all personal information (including a person's name) is encrypted. Digital signatures prove that the information is on the card and can be provided by authorized parties, but nothing is disclosed.

This protects people from abuse of their identity credentials. In at least Rwanda and Iraq, people have been targeted for violence and persecution based on information extracted from their ID card, for example, a last name which identifies them as belonging to a targeted ethnic group.

The CheapID system combines three core technologies:

  1. Public Key Cryptography
    Secures each CheapID Identity Card against forgery and improper use.

  2. 2D Bar Codes
    Carry the digital data of the CheapID card in a form that can be printed on a standard printer, and read with a computer or, soon, a camera phone.

  3. Biometrics
    Securely identify a person even when all other evidence of their identity is lost in the chaos of a war or a natural disaster. This demonstration has no biometrics component.

CheapID cards can be issued as interim ID in an emergency with nothing more than a laptop, a printer, and a USB camera. Such cards can be read on a standard camera phone, and we hope to be able to demonstrate this capability soon.

Simple emergency CheapID cards can be upgraded to a passport-like identity credential if there is an internet connection at the issue station by referencing a remote biometric uniqueness database. This database contains no biographical information about a person, not even their name, for privacy and security reasons.

See the State in a Box - Identity Services Architecture concept paper for more details. This paper was prepared for the US DoD in 2006.