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More Heavyweights Join Liberty Alliance

Seven companies have joined the management board in recent weeks, including Hewlett-Packard and MasterCard. But one big player is still missing.
The Liberty Alliance said Wednesday that it has added several corporate heavyweights, including Hewlett-Packard and MasterCard International Inc., to its management board, boosting its effort to create a global standard digital identity protocol. Such a standard would make business and personal transactions over the Internet easier and more secure, according to the alliance.

Seven companies have joined the board as founding members in recent weeks, including American Express, AOL Time Warner, France Telecom, General Motors, HP, MasterCard, and a yet-unnamed major commercial bank. Existing members are Bell Canada, Global Crossing, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Openwave Systems, RealNetworks, RSA Security, Sony, Sun Microsystems, United Airlines, and Vodafone.

Wednesday's announcement may have added a number of high-profile names to the alliance's board, but one big player is still missing: Microsoft. Its Passport service is the existing leader in digital identity management, with more than 165 million accounts. Microsoft's participation could be key to the alliance's success, but there's been some question over whether it would join. "I think it will happen," says Tony Scott, chief technical officer of General Motors. "I've been involved in some of the discussions, and I've been very encouraged by their interest."

Scott says there are many reasons why GM is interested in developing a digital identity standard. "As a developer of Web-based applications, if there's multiple competing standards out there, it increases our development costs, and that's not something we like." A standard would also help boost productivity. GM is doing lots of collaboration with engineering firms, suppliers, and purchasers, he says, and every one of those external relationships requires a security model and contractual agreement. "It's a huge administrative burden," says Scott. "With a working global interoperability standard, we could put that structure in as an overlay, and eliminate a lot of mumbo jumbo."