Microsoft, Google and PayPal, a unit of eBay, are among the founders of an industry organization that hopes to solve the problem of password overload among computer users.
The Information Card Foundation is an effort to create a single industrywide approach to managing identity online that promises to reduce drastically the use of passwords and create a system that is less vulnerable to fraud.
“There is such a market requirement to solve this problem,” said Paul Trevithick, chairman of the new group and chief executive of Parity, an identity-protection technology company in Needham, Mass., that is developing what it calls an i-card. The foundation, which also includes Equifax, Novell, Oracle and nine industry analysts and technology leaders, will try to set open standards for the technology industry.
The idea is to bring the concept of an identity card, like a driver’s license, to the online world. Rather than logging on to sites with user IDs and passwords, people will gain access to sites using a secure digital identity that is overseen by a third party. The user controls the information in a secure place and transmits only the data that is necessary to access a Web site.
In addition to simplifying online shopping, such information cards will reduce the number of phishing incidents — that is, the fraudulent use of someone’s identity to gain access to financial records, according to Robert Blakeley, a research director at the Burton Group, a consulting firm that is participating in the effort. “You don’t have to depend on a password, so there’s no phishing opportunity,” he said.
One of the biggest tasks facing the group is getting the millions of Web sites to support the new system, a process analysts estimate will take a few years.
“The technology is available today, but what is not available today is a lot of sites that will accept information cards,” Mr. Blakeley said. “The mission of the group is to assure everybody that the industry is working together and that it is not going to be a competitive battlefield.”
Michael B. Jones, Microsoft’s director of identity partnerships, said the information card system would depend on the support of Web site owners in the same way that early Web browsers like Netscape waited for the support of Web server developers. The technology will first be used on desktop systems but will eventually find its way to mobile phones and other hand-held devices, he said.
Microsoft has been working on the concept of an identity card for some time. The new organization will ensure various approaches adhere to the same standard.