Tech vendors line up behind US open government

Yahoo, Google and PayPal lend their support to an open identity pilot program

Ten companies, including several tech vendors, will support the open identity initiative, a pilot programme designed to help US residents more easily engage in open government, the companies announced today.

The goal of the open identity initiative, from the OpenID Foundation and Information Card Foundation, is to assist US President Barack Obama's effort to make it easy for people to register and participate in government websites, without having to create new user names and passwords. Participants in the programme will be able to control how much personal information they share with the government, the two foundations said.

The companies participating in the pilot program are Yahoo, PayPal, Google, Equifax, AOL, VeriSign, Acxiom, Citi, Privo and Wave Systems

The companies will provide digital identities using OpenID and Information Card technologies. The pilot programmes are being conducted by the US Center for Information Technology (CIT) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and other agencies.

Obama signed an open government memorandum earlier this year, and federal agencies have been looking at Web 2.0 technologies as ways to interact with the public.

The goal of this initiative will help transform government websites from basic "brochureware" into interactive resources, saving people time and increasing their direct involvement in government, OpenID and Information Card said.

Under the two foundations' open trust frameworks, any organisation that meets the technical and operational requirements will be able to apply for certification as an identity provider. These identity providers can then supply authentication credentials on behalf of their users. For some activities, these credentials will enable the user to be completely anonymous; for others they may require personal information such as name, email address, age and gender.

Open trust frameworks enable citizens to choose the identity technology, identity provider and credential with which they are most comfortable, while enabling government websites to accept these credentials, the foundations said.

"Open government cannot and will not compromise either security or privacy," Drummond Reed, executive director of the Information Card Foundation, said in a statement. "By working with private industry, the US government is harnessing the innovation and efficiencies of the open market and letting citizens choose their preferred means of engaging with government agencies."

The OpenID Foundation is an international nonprofit, open-source organisation whose mission is to drive the broad adoption of OpenID technology. The Information Card Foundation is an international nonprofit whose mission is to advance simpler, more secure, and more portable digital identity on the Internet.

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