Service sector

Postal Service should ‘move quickly’ to expand identity services, IG says

There is a “window of opportunity” for the U.S. Postal Service to tap into its network of post offices, databases, and identity verification experience to “help close service gaps in identity verification processes.” identity verification,” according to a new white paper from the USPS Office of Inspector General. .

the May 11 newspaper details how the USPS could use its infrastructure and data to work with other agencies as they attempt to verify the identity of Americans online and in person to provide government services.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying billions of dollars in US government relief funds, agencies have struggled to combat growing identity fraud and abusive payments in government services. and have looked to private sector firms and internal systems to verify that Americans seeking government services are who they say they are.

The Postal Service already has 17,000 locations where Americans can prove their identity in person to access certain USPS services like getting a PO Box.

The USPS should “move quickly” to leverage this infrastructure to offer in-person proofing services, or act as an identity attribute validator, for other federal and state government agencies, the report says. the Inspector General.

It could also mean working more closely with the General Services Administration’s Login.gov, a shared login service.

The watchdog white paper covers three options for the agency: offering in-person verification capabilities for other government agencies; using its databases of Americans’ addresses as part of the verification process for other agencies and creating its own digital identity service, allowing people already verified with the USPS to use this information to identification to connect to other agencies. The report notes that the latter is unlikely to be a near-term priority for the agency.

But offering its in-person identity verification tools to other agencies is something the Postal Service already does with the GSA and FBI, according to the report, and has future potential to expand to other agencies.

After the pandemic caused the GSA credentialing offices to close, the USPS worked with the GSA to offer in-person identity verification for the GSA Personal Identity Verification Shared Services Program at DC area post offices. GSA and USPS ended up announcing an expansion of the service from six to 22 locations in 2022.

Currently, USPS plans to be certified at Identity Assurance Level 2 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, for its in-person verification process by the end of the year, according to the report.

The Postal Service also has more in-person identity verification work “in the works” with the GSA’s Login.gov, according to the report. The GSA did not respond to FCW’s request for comment at the time of publication.

The idea that the Postal Service could be an asset to Login.gov has also been championed in the past by Waldo Jaquith, currently a senior adviser at the GSA, who has pointed to the potential for a GSA-USPS collaboration for login verification services. identity in person in a 2021 report written while a fellow at the Beeck Center in Georgetown.

Providing more in-person verification options as an alternative to a fully online service for Login.gov is already a goal for the GSA.

Expanded in-person proofing at post offices could be an alternative for Americans who don’t pass through digital ID proofing options and “a solid verification method for agencies requiring the collection of IDs.” biometric credentials or seeking ways to fill gaps or strengthen their identity verification process,” the monitoring report states.

The report points directly to Login.gov as an example use case, stating that users “could verify their identity in person at a local post office. The user would receive a QR code, go to their local post office and would present identity documents to the post clerk for verification.”

More USPS in-person proofing options could also be an option for citizens who may not have the broadband access or credit history necessary to complete digital proofing options, as well as for victims of identity theft who must restore their identity to access it. to government accounts, the report said.

The Postal Service could also tap into its address databases on behalf of other agencies, to give partners a level of assurance that someone lives or doesn’t live where they claim, a data point that can be another part of the identity puzzle.

A response from USPS management included in the report states that USPS management “continues to evaluate opportunities to expand proofing and identity verification” and that “pilots in development and in progress lay the foundations for a viable, sustainable and profitable long-term vision for these services.”

He also notes, as the Inspector General also does, that it “depends on alternative funding sources to sustain any expanded service to the public.”

The USPS does not receive appropriations, so it would have to rely on other funding like reimbursements from work with other government agencies and service fees.