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Intel, Oracle boost Liberty Alliance

The Liberty Alliance Project, the non-profit trade group organized to develop open standards and tools for federated network identity, has added some more industry heavyweights to its ranks.

Intel and Oracle were among seven organizations that joined as sponsor members last week. The Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), Gamefederation, Kayak Interactive, Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN), and Sharp Laboratories of America also joined. Computer Associates, Giesecke & Devrient, and Trustgenix upgraded their member status to the sponsor level, the group reported. Sponsor memberships include access to the latest federated identity technical specifications, as well as business and policy guidelines.

The Liberty Alliance was formed in September 2001 under the sponsorship of Sun Microsystems. Initially, the group promoted what amounted to an alternative to Microsoft's Passport services. When the alliance was formed, tech book publisher and alliance charter member Tim O'Reilly called the software for managing user identity and authentication "so fundamental that a widespread consensus has emerged that this is a technology that shouldn't be owned or controlled by any one player."

There are now a number of security and identity management-related specifications under development that overlap with the Alliance specs. For example, the WS-Federation, developed last year by BEA Systems, IBM, Microsoft, and RSA Security, overlaps with the Liberty Alliance specs.

Since it was formed, the group has been gaining momentum in the form of varied vendor support. The organization now boasts about 160 member companies. That roster includes IT vendors such as Sun Microsystems, which founded the group, and Sony, as well as consumer-oriented businesses, such as Fidelity Investments and American Express.

"Constant infusion of new members helps drive this industry forward and furthers Liberty's goals and vision of building an organization that represents the interests of a diverse group of companies doing business throughout the world," said Michael Barrett, president of the Liberty Alliance Management Board and vice president of privacy and security for American Express. "Every wave of new members brings with it additional expertise and market insight that not only benefits new and existing members, but also other companies seeking to find solutions to the security and implementation demands inherent in identity management."

Several companies demonstrated commercial products compliant with the Liberty specs at the Burton Group's Catalyst conference, held last week in San Diego. Vodafone, for example, showed off a service that allows users to log on to a Vodafone portal site, find a photo-printing service, and arrange for photos to be printed and shipped. The service will provide information to the selected third-party printing company based on a user's privacy settings, according to Vodafone.

AOL, Nokia, Sun and Trustgenix demoed a business-to-consumer application using Liberty's specifications to enable a user to authenticate, discover and access a radio service on any device based on the user's identity, without entering additional user names and passwords.

And Vodafone, Nokia and Trustgenix demonstrated a mobile-to-consumer application that allows a service provider to discover a user's location and respond accordingly.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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