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Microsoft proposes online ID system

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Elinor Mills
Tuesday, Sept 3, 2008

Microsoft has an idea for keeping children safe online: create “digital playgrounds,” sites where visitors have to prove their age using digital identity credentials.

The idea was detailed in a paper Microsoft was set to release early on Wednesday as part of its Trustworthy Computing initiative. The concept builds on a notion called “End to End Trust” that Microsoft first proposed in April at the RSA Security conference.

The company is tackling the challenge of how to make the Internet safer not just for children, but also for adults wanting to conduct business, make transactions, and communicate with the confidence that the people they are interacting with really are who they say they are. A big concern is how to add more identity authentication without compromising the privacy of the people involved.

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“I started thinking about how we identify people in the physical world three years ago, when my wife had a (baby) boy,” Scott Charney, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Trustworthy Computing, said in a recent interview. “I was in the delivery room, and out he came, and the doctor said, ‘What’s his name?'”

“It occurred to me that all identity is based on social custom and derivative identity. Parents name the child, and the name is put on the birth certificate,” which then becomes the irrefutable proof of that person’s identity, he said. “We haven’t done that on the Internet.”

Microsoft proposes using existing identity verification systems, such as schools that register children for classes, post offices that verify identities for passports, and motor vehicle agencies that issue drivers’ licenses, to help create digital credentials that people would use online.

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This article was posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2008 at 12:33 pm

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