Key agencies join digital ID alliance

Liberty Alliance Project

Two leading federal agencies have joined an alliance of organizations working to address digital identity challenges.

The General Services Administration and the Defense Department's Defense Manpower Data Center have joined the Liberty Alliance Project, a consortium of more than 160 organizations and companies developing standards for electronically managing identity information.

Liberty Alliance specifications could play a key role in helping government organizations authenticate the identity of individuals and organizations that want to conduct business with government agencies via the Internet.

GSA is responsible for the development and implementation of a common infrastructure for authentication services across the federal government, so it is significant that the agency has signed on as a Liberty Alliance member.

Whether GSA's membership will help advance the government's e-Authentication services remains to be seen, said Steve Timchak, GSA's program manager for e-Authentication, which is one of the 24 e-government initiatives in the President's Management Agenda.

However, GSA officials want to play a key role in the alliance. "We want to influence future releases of specifications" by providing policy and technical expertise, he said.

GSA joined the alliance because "industry and government have the same concerns addressing identity management," Timchak said. These mutual concerns include issues such as single sign-on where an individual logs on to a network once and has access to multiple services he or she is authorized to use, as well as the management of user credentials across multiple systems.

The Defense Manpower Data Center joined the Liberty Alliance because it is involved in several projects in which there is a need for secure digital identity, according to agency officials. The center collects and maintains critical information for DOD, including automated power, personnel, training and financial databases.

By joining the Liberty Alliance Project, the center and GSA will work with corporations such as American Express Co., America Online Inc., General Motors Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., MasterCard International Inc., RSA Security Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. to develop specifications for a federated network identity model.

"A federated network identity model will enable every business or user to manage their own data and ensure that the use of critical personal information is managed and distributed by the appropriate parties, rather than a central authority," a report on the Liberty Alliance Project Web site states.

The alliance released Version 1.0 of its federated network identity specifications in July 2002. Future specifications are expected during the first half of 2003.

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