Google, PayPal, Equifax, VeriSign, Verizon, CA, and Booz Allen Hamilton have announced the formation of the Open Identity Exchange (OIX), a non-profit organisation dedicated to building trust in the exchange of online identity credentials across public and private sectors.
With initial grants from the OpenID Foundation (OIDF) and Information Card Foundation (ICF), OIX has been approved as a trust framework provider by the US Government to certify online identity management providers for US federal agencies.
Google, Paypal, and Equifax are the first three identity providers certified by OIX to issue digital identity credentials that will be accepted for privacy-protected registration and login at US government websites. Verizon is currently in the certification process and is expected to be completed shortly.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the first government Website accepting these credentials, including OpenID and Information Card logins. Citizens can use open identity technologies to support a number of online services across Websites, including customised library searches, access to training resources, conference registration, and medical research wikis.
Drummond Reed, ICF executive director and acting executive director of OIX says: "As we roll out progressively stronger levels of certification, this will empower US citizens to access and mange their tax records, Social Security records, veteran's benefits, and many other government services online."
OIX is currently working on development of trust frameworks for public media, telecommunications, library services, state and local governments, and professional associations. It is expected that the framework will be extended to e-commerce transactions over the Internet.
Andrew Nash, senior director of identity services for PayPal says: "Trusted identities and consumer control of personal information are essential to the effectiveness of transactions on the Internet. Trusted frameworks that provide identity assurance are a critical factor in the success of the digital identity ecosystem."
The Equifax I-Card is among the first commercial products to emerge from the initiative. A digital identity management solution that lives in an individual's digital wallet, the card contains information needed to conduct online transactions or verify identity.
Ron Carpinella, Equifax's VP of identity management, comments: "As an innovator of knowledge-based authentication technology and the only information solutions company on this board, we look forward to advancing the development of an open trust platform initiative that will enable more secure and simplified interaction between consumers and the digital world."
Finextra verdict It's what the world's been waiting for. The creation of a workable federated identity standard will provide a major boost to the digital economy. But let's not get too excited. Don't forget, we've all been here before. The last great hope was the Liberty Alliance, a similar vendor-sponsored initiative that floundered under the weight of its own technical specifications. OIX has US Government support, which helps. But the real breakthrough will come at the user end. Create a simple, consumer-friendly standard that is open, easily accessible and comprehensible to all and they will come.