Liberty Authentication Spec Due By Summer

The Liberty Alliance Project plans a summer release of the initial specification for its Web identity technology, which will give users the ability to choose which Web sites see their identity information.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Members of the Liberty Alliance Project plan to release by this summer the initial specification for their proposed Web identity technology, which will give users the ability to choose which Web sites they share their identity information with.

Eric Dean, the chairman of the projects management board and CIO at United Airlines, said the technology working group is making good progress on the first draft of the spec and stressed that users will have complete control over who sees their information and in what form.

Under the new spec, users will be able to sign onto one Web site and then move among the sites of the projects other members without having to re-authenticate. They will also have the ability to select which other sites they want to link together.

So, for example, a user buying tickets on Uniteds site could link his United identity to his identity at the Hertz site and move freely between the two.

"The user will have specific control over whether to link accounts," Dean said at a press conference Tuesday at the RSA Conference here. "The privacy issue is absolutely at the center of what we want to do."

The project faces competition from Microsoft Corp. and its Passport service, but Dean said he does not consider the two to be mutually exclusive. The two sides have had numerous discussions about the Redmond, Wash., company joining the Liberty Alliance, but Dean said Microsoft still has several concerns about the project.

Specifically, Microsoft officials are worried that there is no set limit to the scope of the projects work and think that it could possibly conflict with some of the companys other initiatives. Theyre also concerned about the intellectual-property agreement among the alliance members, many of whom are not technology companies and therefore have different expectations and standards for dealing with such issues.

But, Dean does not think these problems comprise an insurmountable barrier to interoperability between Passport and the projects service.

"I dont care whether they ever become a member as long as interoperability happens," he said.

At a panel discussion earlier in the day, a Microsoft executive remained silent when asked whether he thought the two services would be interoperable within a years time.

The Liberty Alliance is a collaborative effort of several dozen companies including Sun Microsystems Inc., AOL Time Warner Inc. and RSA Security Inc. In addition to setting a tentative date for the release of its initial specification, the alliance also announced 11 new members, including VeriSign Inc., Visa International, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Nextel.