IBM, Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Novell, and Parity Communications have come together to develop an open source alternative to Microsoft's InfoCard identity management scheme.
Codenamed Higgins, the initiative is intended to provide a global system for individuals to actively manage and control their online personal information, such as bank account numbers, medical records, telephone numbers and credit card numbers. Much like Microsoft's recently previewed InfoCard system, individual users will decide what information they want shared with trusted online Websites that use the software.
John Clippinger, senior fellow for The Berkman Center, says: "Our aim is to construct an open and widely accessible software framework that puts the individual at the center of the identity management universe. With this framework in place, it will be easier for society to begin the migration to more secure online environments."
He says Higgins will make it simple and secure for someone to change an address across all their online accounts with a single keystroke; delegate who can see what elements of their medical records; or change a password across online banking and brokerage accounts.
Organisations using 'smart' applications, built with Higgins open source tools, will be able to access uder-defined identity information, such as their telephone number or buying preferences, according to rules set by the individual, or by an authorised third-party service provider acting on their behalf.
To spur adoption, IBM and Parity Communications have contributed newly-created software code to the Eclipse Foundation, which is managing the project, and Novell will contribute code as well. IBM plans to support Higgins with its identity management software portfolio next year, with added support by independent software vendors and IBM's consulting services division.
Anthony Nadalin, distinguished engineer and chief security architect, IBM, says: "Open-sourcing the Higgins technology ensures that there will be easy access to it, so that developers can innovate around it. It also means that customers won't be locked into a proprietary architecture when they adopt user-centric identity management systems. The project will extend IBM's identity management portfolio by putting people in the driver's seat of their personal identity information -- while also giving companies, governments and social networking outlets new ways to collaborate."