Microsoft privacy chief says U-Prove slow to move

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Redmond's efforts to reign-in information overload a tough sell.

Microsoft said its audacious cryptography based identity platform U-Prove had not gained much ground since it was acquired three years ago.

The system (demo) was designed to fight back against the collection of user data by allowing users to provide only a bare minimum of personal information when transacting with participating websites.

The collection of names, addresses and date of birth is part and parcel for even basic transactions on most web sites. Apple, for example, demands reams of data from users wanting to purchase a song.

If Apple signed onto U-Prove, it may recieve only the money for the song and the customer's iTunes username.

But critics argued the system, developed by identity guru Dr Stefan Brands and bought by Microsoft in March 2008, would not be adopted by web companies that monetise customer information.

To date, U-Prove has functioned only in proof of concept form and in Microsoft's identity product suites from which Redmond's Cardspace 2 identity scheme was recently dropped.

U-Prove was released under the open BSD licence and wrapped in Microsoft's Open Specification Promise that meant users could not be slugged with legal patent-related suites for using the product.

An effort a decade earlier to push Microsoft's Hailstorm web services, which linked Windows Live ID to provide third party authentication services, sunk following user distaste at the centralised program.

Yet Redmond's chief privacy officer and New Zealand national, Brendon Lynch, said U-Prove's "time will come".

"It is complex and it takes time for people to understand what its capabilities are and the opportunities with it," Lynch said.

"There is a bit of chicken and egg there, because you need the [web sites] to leverage it."

Proof of concepts have been conducted in Europe, but progress was slow. U-Prove was in a "similar place" to when it was acquired, Lynch said.

Microsoft would continue to evangelise the technology and prepare it for enterprise adoption.

Lynch, speaking later on the concept of federated identity, said monolithic single sign-on identity systems were not the future.

Instead, identity systems should remain separate ike they are in the physical world, but correlated.

"I think the topic of unique IDs goes way beyond the authentication space and will be a source of much privacy discussion for many years to come."

Copyright © SC Magazine, Australia


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