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25 Jun 2008

Information cards

The Information Card Foundation is a trade body representing "a group of thoughtful designers, architects, and companies who want to make the digital world easier for you by building better products that help you get control of your personal information", and promoting the concept of "Information Cards". There are some big- and not-so-big-name backers.

Billed as "the digital version of the cards in your wallet" and "the new way to control your personal data and identity on the web", Information Cards (also known as InfoCards or I-Cards) are stored in an identity selector ("selector" or "digital wallet") on your desktop, browser or mobile device. Websites that accept Information Cards access the stored card, retrieving user identity and authentication information automatically without the user having to login in the conventional way. Other information such as your shipping address can also be retrieved automagically.

So far, this sounds reminiscent of cookies (oh no!) but presumably those 'thoughtful designers and architects' have been beavering away on the security and privacy aspects. The Information Cards Forum website doesn't actually say much about the technology, unfortunately. Perhaps they've thought through the use of powerful encryption algorithms, long keys and solid protocols. Maybe they've considered shared and public PCs, cross-site issues and more. Perhaps this time they'll get it right.

If you change your address, you only have to update it in your personal data store, and all the relationships you have established with your Information Card will be updated automatically.


'If a hacker changes your address, they only need to update it in your personal data store and all the sites that use your I-Card will use the hacked version'. I wonder if the automation will be such that the user never even notices that his bank statements and goods ordered online are now being delivered to a strange PO box address half way across the country?

Use "I-Cards" to:

- login to websites with a single click

- create relationships with those you want to do business with

- manage your personal data in one place that only you and those you allow have access.

- wield the claims that other people and institutions say about you.

- prove that you are who you say you are without revealing details using trusted identity providers.

The first bullet - single click website logins - and several others on the list can be achieved already with all manner of browser-integrated password vaults.

I have no idea what bullet 4 means by "wielding claims". I understand you can wield an ax but not a claim.

The last bullet presumably implies the use of digital certificates and PKI. So that's alright then. No issues there.

I'll be interested to see how this initiative pans out. So far, it looks suspiciously like a vendor-backed "solution" looking for a market demand. Claims to the effect that the ICF will develop vendor-independent standards (for interoperability among, presumably, the ICF members) hint at the real objective here. Get something to market (or rather, 'launch the concept') and start building the I-Card brand before some idiot has the temerity to point out the flaws.

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