The Economist writes about the background (and importance) of the release of the Liberty Alliance’s release of specifications to manage digital identities:
Knowing who a user is has traditionally been left to individual websites or software applications. Consumers and company employees tend to have many different identities in the form of passwords and user names. But multiple identities are becoming a serious drawback for e-commerce. Consumers forget their passwords and spend their money offline. Firms fail to purge former employees from their directories, giving them the opportunity to wreak digital havoc.
One basic way to unify digital identities is known as single sign-on. These services let a use – whether a consumer or a company employee or supplier – move seamlessly from one website to the next without having to retype a password. The holy grail, however, is technology that allows businesses to manage identities – and thus risk -in exactly the same way as they do offline, says Jamie Lewis, chief executive of the Burton Group, a consultancy.
Liberty Alliance’s competition comes from Microsoft’s Passport.
Esther Dyson wrote about Digital Identity Management in a recent issue of Release 1.0. An excerpt from the introduction:
Historically, identity management technologies have attached themselves to individual applications or resources. But when computers are linked together, the notion of users with individual privileges and profiles becomes important. Virtually every application in the future will make use of identity information in context for security, for billing, for recognizing friends and customers, for political and social interaction. That said, while its relatively easy to know who someone is by name, its much harder to assess their track record and the predictability of their behavior that is, their trustworthiness.
Contextual identity will transform our virtual, abstract world of content and systems the one we have been building online for a generation now into a concrete, tangible world full of recognized and recognizable people. As this transformation happens, the online world of virtual local villages will develop into one where anyone can travel widely and yet remain as at-home and as visible as in his own neighborhood. Privacy issues are likely to be easier to resolve as users can easily understand, define and control what happens to their data.