Open ID seeks to balance convenience and privacy

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Open ID seeks to balance convenience and privacy
Open ID seeks to balance convenience and privacy

As the number of Web sites offering per­sonalization grows, so does the number of logins and passwords for users to remem­ber. As a result, many Web users are now experiencing “login fatigue,” either forget­ting their usernames and passwords or refusing to revisit a Web site with a unique login. The inability to solve this problem hinders online marketers.

“People's inability to remember their username and password is frequently the biggest obstacle to return visits,” said Dagny Prieto, a New York-based user experience consultant.

One approach to solving the challenge is to implement technologies that allow users to create a single, secure digital identity that they control, much like consumers use one credit card to make purchases at different stores. With this capability, users can “become visitors and registrants with other sites without creating a new login or password,” said Bill Washburn, executive director of The OpenID Foundation, an organization formed to help promote, pro­tect and enable the OpenID technologies and community. He pointed out current examples of what he calls open, portable identities, such as a Google login which provides access Google services, from Gmail to Google Analytics.

New technologies such as OpenID aim to close the gap moving forward, allowing users to take their identity data to any Web site not only to log in, but also to use profile data. Sites currently utilizing OpenID include Plaxo and LiveJournal. (DMNews.com also uses it.) Members of the OpenID Foundation include the BBC, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and IBM.

Kendall Allen, managing director of Incognito Digital, LLC, welcomes the moves. “In today's marketplace, where social media is an increasingly valid and powerful method for perpetuating both corporate and personal brand, digital identity management is crucial and cen­tralization is [a] welcome development.”

For Washburn, the success of digital identity technologies relies upon educat­ing both developers and consumers. The former needs to know how the technology works and best practices for creating a con­sistent user interface. The latter needs to know how to use a single digital identity.

Opponents of a digital identity point to the potential for fraud as a major hole in the argument. “At this moment, there are some developments to protect against fraud,” Washburn said — good news for marketers, who seek to grow audiences while balancing both personalization and privacy concerns.

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