send checks to everyone – only if you can id them

As part of the covid-19 response, the US federal government wants to send checks to everyone. Ideally, you pay your taxes individually, you would have each person’s information to send a check to.

But its not that easy and it is going to be ripe with fraud and abuse. And unfortunately, banks, who are guilty of several sins *again* around this, must play a role and take their cut. And the payments will be susceptible to fraud, especially for lower-income individuals with less sophisticated banking technology.

Ideally, we would have a way to identify people, independent of the banking world, so they could receive an electronic payment. Unfortunately, while the federal government is busy imposing ID requirements for traveling on planes, it is ignoring citizen identity that operates for broader national interests.

For years, technologists have been talking about decentralized identity and verifiable claims, based on blockchain concepts, and electronic payments using blockchain technology.

While we can hope this is a one-time event, it is a pretty clear example of how those technologies could make this effortless and cost-efficient.

Today, this type of payment effort will be bad.

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