Microsoft, Germans working on electronic ID card prototype

Microsoft's Scott Charney says company's identity management system can give consumers the power to control where their data ends up.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft released its new identity management software at the RSA conference on Tuesday and is working on a prototype national ID card system in Germany that is designed to give consumers control over the amount of personal data they share with specific organizations.

German citizens will be using new electronic cards starting in November and the prototype project using Microsoft technology is being developed in order to roll out a pilot project in the same time frame, Scott Charney, corporate vice president of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft, said in his keynote.

Microsoft is working with the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems in Berlin on an interoperability prototype project integrating Microsoft's U-Prove technology and Active Directory services with the German government's future electronic identity card system, he said.

The system would allow German citizens to, for instance, use one card to provide only data needed to verify enrollment status at a university and then provide only residency status to a separate organization, such as for voting purposes.

The move to cloud services makes it easier for authorities to go to one place to get data on individuals, but giving consumers the ability to control access to the different types of their data will help prevent governments and advertisers from getting access to data they shouldn't have, according to Charney.

"As we migrate to the cloud, there will be more of this; everything will go to the cloud," he said. "Governments and litigants can go to the cloud and get that data without ever coming to the citizen. The question is, is that the right place to be?" Identity management solutions can put some power back into the hands of consumers, he said.

"You can limit the amount of information you disclose so you can execute a transaction without revealing too much about yourself," Charney said. "The cloud has the ability to alter the balance of power between the individual and the state."

Meanwhile, Microsoft is releasing its Forefront Identity Manager 2010, a system corporations can use to manage employees and others within an organization. The company also is providing core portions of its U-Prove Cryptography specification under the Open Specification Promise, as well as releasing open-source software development kits in C# and Java editions.

Updated 1:54 p.m. PST to make it clear that it is a prototype system.