Brussels, 21 Sep 2005
The work of an EU-funded Network of Excellence (NoE) is to form the basis of a new international standard, which will provide a framework for the definition of digital identity and the secure management of identity-related information.
The FIDIS NoE (future of identity in the information society) is funded under the information society technologies (IST) priority of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). It was established to address the new ways in which individuals, or even simply 'entities', are identified in the information society, for example using pseudonyms or even with total anonymity.
'So-called virtual identities [...] are being created for security, profit, convenience or even for fun,' according to the FIDIS website. 'These new identities are feeding back into the world of social and business affairs, offering a mix of plural identities and challenging traditional notions of identity.'
Given the fact that individual EU countries already display some markedly different approaches to more traditional forms of identity management, such as ID cards for example, FIDIS was set up to overcome the deep fragmentation of research into the future of identity by establishing cooperation around a common set of activities.
'Fragmentation is in fact a problem. It is impractical to have an uncoordinated response to the same issue,' argues Kai Rannenberg of Goethe University in Germany, the project's coordinator. 'A harmonised system is needed for numerous reasons. Consider mobility. Europeans are on the move, with many working cross borders. The European Commission has decided that research on identity is an important issue that must be integrated and coordinated across Europe.'
The consortium of 24 partners brings together universities, research institutes and companies from all corners of the EU. Their activities are organised around seven separate research themes: identity of identity, profiling, interoperability of IDs and ID management systems, forensic implications, de-identification, high-tech ID, and mobility and identity. The research results are made available to citizens, researchers, and in particular to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe.
In a moment of foresight, Professor Rannenberg said previously: 'Bringing together different approaches and cultures creates a synergy that will prove useful in finding a European solution. A coordinated European solution could also become an export good, much like GSM, a highly successful standard that is now used globally.'
Indeed, having only begun its work in April 2004, the work of the FIDIS consortium is already being used as the basis for just such a standard. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has started work on a standard for identity management on the basis of specifications provided by the FIDIS project.
As well as providing organisations with a common framework for defining identity and managing identity-related information in a secure way, the project is also designed to enhance trust in digital technologies, protect the privacy of individuals, and create a better understanding of how identity management can ultimately help lead to a fairer information society.
'I strongly support the ISO initiative to work on a standard for identity management and I am very pleased to see FIDIS play such an important role in it,' concluded Jacques Bus, Head of Unit 'ICT for trust and security' in the Commission's Information Society DG.
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