One of the biggest challenges facing consumers, retailers and the U.S. government is how individuals secure an identity online. For Joe Public there aren’t too many options, but Equifax Inc. is trying to change that.
The Atlanta-based credit bureau has introduced Information Cards, or I-Cards, to help consumers prove their identity online, says Steve Ely, president of Equifax’s Personal Information Solutions. “It’s a portable solution that’s in control of the consumer and works across any type of login,” he says.
I-Cards aim to be the online version of a physical wallet. Instead of having to remember multiple user names and passwords to gain access to sites individuals would use an I-Card instead, Ely says. The Information Card Foundation, of which Equifax is a member, is trying to promote the use of these cards as a framework that work with existing standards, such as SAML, and federated identity schemes.
Ely says there will be different types of I-Cards, though no card is actually issued. Equifax is issuing managed cards, where a trusted third party verified the information being presented. When a consumer signs up for the card, his information is checked through Equifax’s databases to make sure it’s accurate. Also, every time the card is presented for a transaction the details are checked against Equifax databases to make sure nothing has changed.
But there will be other cards as well. A relationship card can provide loyalty rewards with retailers. There will also be a Z-Card that can have a consumer’s information, such as driver license data. This information will be certified once and then it will be static.
A consumer can have every one of these cards and use them when necessary, Ely says. “To the consumer the advantage is convenience and security. Instead of recording and remembering user names and password you use the appropriate card when going to that site.”
Equifax didn’t launch the site to attract consumers, though, the company’s intent is to let retailers and businesses know that another solution exists to help stop fraud. “We’re trying to build out the ecosystem to find retailers that want to I-Card-enable their Web sites,” Ely says. So far some sites have contacted Equifax but nothing has been rolled out.
I-Cards cost nothing to the consumer, it’s the business that will eventually pay, Ely says. Every time a consumer uses an I-Card on a site and the information is checked the retailer will be charged a small amount.
Equifax launched the site to start issuing I-Cards to consumers in November, but the company would not say how many consumers have signed up for the service.