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Microsoft lines up with the good guys on identity tech

Brands and Cameron pitch the fix for government's Big ID problem

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Early last month Jacqui Smith unveiled the latest revision of the ID card roadmap. On the same day, by happy coincidence, Microsoft bought Credentica's U-Prove assets and hired Dr Stefan Brands. On the one hand, a discredited and failing strategy staggers on under its fourth Home Secretary, while on the other...?

In recent years Microsoft has shown every sign of knowing which way is up when it comes to identity management. The company already has on board Kim Cameron, its chief architect of identity and one of the key thinkers in the field, and with the arrival of Dr Brands - who joins Cameron in the company's Connected Systems Division - it adds a second. Cameron cleared up the mess and set the new rules after Microsoft's monolithic, centralised and panoptical Hailstorm ID management policy collapsed under its own weight. Dr Brands is author of the seminal Rethinking public key infrastructures and digital certificates, and the developer of 'blind' or 'minimum disclosure' credentials.

Together, these support a privacy-friendly and user-centric view of identity management - the antithesis, effectively, of the controlled, centralised vision that's currently crashing and burning at the Home Office.

The ID problem

Dr Brands' not entirely happy experiences as senior cryptographer and chief scientist at David Chaum's pioneering DigiCash and later at Zero Knowledge Systems underlined the key problem faced by Credentica. This ambitious work has no business model for a small company. Clients often don't know and don't care that they have this vast, global problem.

Many intelligent and powerful people fail to appreciate the large, growing and interlinked problems of Internet privacy and security. The problem has no real analogue in the tangible world, so it's hard to grasp that a solution is even possible, let alone one that is full of delightful counter-intuitive properties.

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