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Tech giants team for online ID cards

Passwords are so passé

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A group of software and online payment companies are teaming up to find a better way than passwords to protect, and prove, your identity online.

Problems with passwords are well known - people require ever more passwords which means they either get forgotten, or people use the same word for several different services which is a security risk. The new group will seek to find open standards to make it easier to prove your identity online without using dozens of passwords and usernames.

Equifax, Google, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle and PayPal will work together to create "Information Cards" - online cards like those in your wallet. Different cards can contain different levels of information and can be used to log in to different websites instead of using a username and password. Some may contain just a user name and password, others address information.

Other information - such as whether or not the browser is over 21 years old - could also be verified by the website by sending a query to the independent third party. In theory this should be safer - your information will not have to be stored by several different websites.

The group hopes to extend its reach beyond consumers to identifying users of enterprise networks too.

The Information Card Foundation has applied be a working group of Identity Commons which is also trying to create an open, independent identity layer for the internet.

The difficulty for such groups is convincing the market that it is truly independent, and not just promoting the agenda of its most powerful members. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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