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Liberty Alliance Looks to Stamp Seal of Approval

With concerns about secure digital identity management looming over software vendors, the Liberty Alliance Project is unveiling a new program Wednesday that will help vendors provide proof that their products and services hew to a common architecture standard for ID management.

Businesses face increasing demand to manage multiple products and systems securely as the number of users accessing the Web multiplies. Standards initiatives that promote cross-vendor interoperability can help users lower costs and gain more use out of Web services.

Since the consortium, whose goal is to facilitate the adoption of identity management over the Internet, unveiled its identity architecture last March, its members have been working on Web service-oriented products that employ technologies based on the Liberty specification.

The new certification program will help vendors, integrators and users make sure that there products are interoperable in practical solutions -- not just in theory, said Simon Nicholson, chair of the Business Marketing Expert Group at Liberty and manager of Industry Initiatives and Alliances at Sun Microsystems.

The program also means products and services released under its guidance by the vendors will come stamped with an official Liberty Alliance logo to tell customers that the products have been validated. Vendors who declare conformance must participate in a Liberty-sponsored interoperability event, following guidelines to prove compatibility with other Liberty-enabled products and compliance with Liberty.

This is designed to assuage customers' concerns about the products interoperability, said Roger Sullivan, president and CEO of Phaos Technologies and chair of the Liberty Alliance certification sub-team. "This will help drive overall buyer confidence in interoperability," Sullivan told internetnews.com, noting that it will also help predict product functionality and provide additional reference points for vendors and users.

Identity management is one of the most important aspects with regard to using credit cards over the Internet, which is why Michael Barrett, vice president of Internet strategy at American Express, is president of the Liberty Alliance Management Board. He noted that because some standards are open to interpretation customers are not as quick to embrace them. This is why validation by way of a partner program is necessary.

The alliance is made up of member companies Sun Microsystems, VeriSign, AOL and Amercian Express, among others; Microsoft, IBM and others produce similar specifications for Web services under the auspices of the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) consortium.

Under the Liberty Alliance's architecture, identity consists of traits, attributes and preferences. Traits are issued by governments, like driver's licenses and passports, and companies, like employee status and intranet sign-in information, as well as biometric characteristics. Attributes and preferences are specified as characteristics associated with an individual, like a person's airline seating preferences, music preferences, purchasing history or medical history. The Liberty Alliance said attributes and preferences can go beyond individuals to include phone, desktop or kiosks.

The Liberty Alliance, who announced the certification program at the Digital ID World in Colorado, plans to reveal 10 companies who are developing products and services with the Liberty spec at its interoperability event in Madrid next month, from November 11 to 14.