Google, Microsoft and PayPal are among a group of technology firms that are joining forces to promote the use of virtual online identity cards - rather than user names and passwords - for conducting transactions via the Web.
The founders of the Information Card Foundation, which also include Equifax, Novell and Oracle - say the non-profit organisation aims to promote "simpler, more secure and more open digital identity on the Internet".
The foundation aims to "promote the rapid build-out and adoption of Internet-enabled digital identities using information cards" - which will be similar to real world IDs like physical drivers' licences - that can be used instead of usernames and passwords when conducting online transactions or entering sites.
Users can have multiple virtual cards containing different levels of detail so they can control the amount of information used for interactions, says the group.
"Rather than logging into Web sites with usernames and passwords, information cards let people 'click-in' using a secure digital identity that carries only the specific information needed to enable a transaction," says Charles Andres, executive director, Information Card Foundation.
Andres says the adoption of the technology will also benefit businesses which will "enjoy lower fraud rates, higher affinity with customers, lower risk, and more timely information about their customers and business partners".
The foundation's main aim is promoting technical interoperability and ensuring consistency by getting Web sites to support the system. It will use existing and emerging data exchange and security protocols, standards and software components.
The group also plans to build consumer confidence by introducing consistent industry branding to help users identify sites that accept the technology.
Microsoft has been trumpeting the concept of digital information cards for some time, recently introducing its Windows CardSpace client software.