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Balancing Access and Security: NIST Announces Collaborative Project on Digital Identity in Public Benefits Delivery


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), along with the Digital Benefits Network (DBN) at the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University, and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), have announced a collaborative project that aims to adapt NIST’s digital identity guidelines to support the implementation of public benefits policy and delivery while balancing security, privacy, equity, and usability.

Benefits-administering agencies, including those designed to help beneficiaries pay for food, housing, medical, and other basic living expenses, face a number of digital challenges including privacy, data security, and potential biases in systems.

The project will adapt NIST Digital Identity Guidelines, a publication that presents the process and technical requirements for meeting digital identity management assurance levels for identity proofing, authentication, and federation, including requirements for security and privacy as well as considerations for fostering equity and the usability of digital identity solutions and technology.

Additionally, the project relies on community engagement to develop voluntary resources. NIST reports that the project will integrate input from a variety of voices, including federal partners, state benefit program administrators, state IT and cybersecurity leaders, digital identity experts, technologists, advocates, and those with direct experience navigating the U.S. public benefit landscape.

“To improve benefits delivery to the U.S. public, it is vital that agencies balance access and security,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST director Laurie E. Locascio. “Different populations have different needs, barriers, and circumstances that must be considered, and this collaboration will bring together a diverse set of communities to do just that.”

“People should be able to access public benefits programs without facing unfair technical barriers or compromising their privacy,” said Alexandra Reeve Givens, CDT president and CEO. “And they need to be able to trust that agencies’ systems will work effectively, fairly, and securely.”

The partners will host public workshops and working sessions to encourage community dialogue, gather input, and foster a deeper understanding of the applicability of digital identity risk management in the public benefits ecosystem. Access more information in NIST’s news release.


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Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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