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Gov 2.0: Ten Companies Bring Open Identity To Government

Moving to make make online government resources both more social and more private, a coalition of companies has committed to supporting OpenID and Information Cards at federal Web sites.

A group of ten technology and information companies on Wednesday said they will support pilot programs to make government Web sites easier to interact with, in keeping with the White House's Open Government initiative.

AOL, Acxiom, Citi, Equifax, Google, PayPal, Privo, VeriSign, Wave Systems, and Yahoo said they would act as digital identity providers by supporting OpenID and Information Card technologies at government Web sites. OpenID is an authentication protocol that allows Internet users to register at different Web sites using the same OpenID user name. Information Cards provide a digital identity that can be used in conjunction with OpenID authentication.

The announcement comes as the Gov 2.0 Summit opens in Washington, D.C., where policy makers and industry leaders plan to discuss how technology can make government more functional. During a presentation tomorrow, federal CIO Vivek Kundra is expected to discuss these digital identity pilot programs.

The purpose of these pilot programs is to give visitors to government Web sites pseudonymous interaction options that don't require the revelation of personally identifying information. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) plans to use OpenID and Information Cards to allow customized library searches, access to training materials, conference registration, and use of medical research wikis while maintaining strong privacy protections for users.

More broadly, the pilot programs aim to make use of the Web 2.0 technology that government agencies have been adopting to make government Web sites more open and participatory.

On January 21st, on his first full day in office, President Obama issued a Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, which stated that government should be more transparent, participatory, and collaborative.

"It's good to see government taking a leadership role in moving identity technology forward, " said Bob Blakley, VP and research director of the identity and privacy strategies section of the Burton Group, in a statement. "It's also good to see government working with experts from private sector and especially with the Information Card Foundation and the OpenID Foundation because identity is not a technical phenomenon -- it's a social phenomenon. And technological support for identity requires the participation of a broad community and of representatives of government who define the legal framework within which identity will operate."

Blakley characterized the announcement as the arrival of the most important missing element in the open identity infrastructure, specifically the trust framework.

With a common trust framework, federal agencies can look forward to more efficient, compliant online authentication at a lower cost.

InformationWeek Analytics has published an analysis of the current state of identity management. Download the report here (registration required).

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