Sun Microsystems and a host of partners have formed an alliance which offers an alternative to Microsoft's Passport service for storing personal information and controlling access to websites.
The Liberty Alliance Project intends to create a single sign-on and decentralised authentication system for online services by providing interoperability through an open specification.
The project charter members include Bank of America, i2, General Motors, RSA Security, Entrust, American Airlines and Verisign.
Technology companies in the alliance include Cisco Systems, IBM, Philips Electronics, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, the Apache Software Foundation, and RealNetworks.
Unlike the Passport initiative, which gives Microsoft control over users' identity information, the Liberty project would enable consumer information to be distributed, such as financial information with financial services companies, medical information with medical authorities.
While the alliance has not yet decided on the exact technologies it will use for the authentication process, the group plans to allow each company involved to store user information on its own servers, Sun said.
Smartcards and biometrics technology could be two of the possible means of authentication.
Sun vice president of public policy, Piper Cole, said the project is committed to protecting consumer privacy and security while providing personalised services and products.
Cole said the alliance would form a Privacy and Security Working Group to develop a privacy framework and consult with privacy groups and government agencies.
Sun officials said the alliance was formed within the last 60 days and that it would welcome input from all interested parties, including Microsoft.
A Microsoft spokesman said Sun's announcement is a reaction to the inroads Microsoft has made with Passport.
Microsoft's Passport service, which has about 165 million users, allows web users single sign-on to a variety of services.
Passport has been widely criticised by opponents, including a coalition of privacy groups led by the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, which filed a complaint against Microsoft with the Federal Trade Commission earlier this year.
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