Information Card Foundation FAQ

Information Card Foundation Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Information Card Foundation (ICF)?

The Information Card Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organization formed to advance the adoption and use of Information Cards across the Internet. Information Cards are the digital, online equivalents of your physical identification credentials such as a drivers license, passport, credit card, club card, business card or a social greeting card. Users control the distribution of their personal information through each Information Card. Information Cards are stored in a user’s own online wallet (called a “selector”) and “handed out” with a mouse click just like a physical ID card. Information Cards can be issued to users by organizations for general or specific use. Users can also create their own Information Cards as a shortcut to avoid the endless process of filling out web forms. But more importantly, the infrastructure behind the cards allows for trusted sources (a bank, a credit union, a government office, etc.) to verify specific information
(“claims”) made by a user. In other words, Information Cards give users the ability to make claims about themselves, verified by qualified 3rd parties, while using the Internet.

What are Examples of Information Card Use?

When logging into an alumni web site, an Information Card-carrying alumnus can simply click on his or her school alumni Information Card, rather than trying to remember his/her user name and password. When buying wine on-line, a user can present a “I’m over 21” card to the wine merchant backed by age verification from a trusted identity provider (e.g. a driver’s license issuer or an age verification service). The actual birth date information need not be revealed or recorded by the merchant.

When purchasing goods online, a user can provide verified claims that their address is correct and up-to-date, that the credit card information presented is accurate, etc. (thereby reducing costs for the merchant).

Why is the Information Card Foundation needed?

When the Internet began, there was no need for an identity verification system. But today the Internet has grown from simply a network of university and government research computers to an essential part of our international economic ecosystem. As a 1990’s cartoon famously said, “on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog,” and that’s the problem. There is no way for you to assert claims about yourself, verified by qualified 3rd parties. Businesses need to obtain and store more personal information to minimize their risk. Criminal phishing exploits this weakness. We each have to remember and store dozens if not hundreds of usernames and passwords, or default to a few, often left exposed so we can easily find them. Identity theft is a thriving business. Fraud dampens economic growth. No single company can succeed in building a user-centric, vendor-independent, platformneutral identity framework by itself. Furthermore, no single entity can be trusted to handle all the identity
information associated with each person. The goal of the ICF is to help create the infrastructure components that enable our complex and messy economic and social networks to support at least the same set of identity capabilities online as they have offline. Similar to the development of our transportation infrastructure of roads, traffic signals, sidewalks, bike paths, etc., our digital lives need a way for us to prove we are who we say we are without revealing more than is necessary, and with mutual control for making or severing our business and social digital interactions. Doing this requires a community of dedicated individuals—architects, designers, developers, users—together with businesses that cross technological, financial and commercial fields.

Who are ICF’s Founding members?

The ICF is being founded by a united community of professional individuals who have worked to develop Information Cards and an underlying open identity layer, along with corporations dedicated to promoting global commerce over the Internet.

The Steering Community members include:

• Paul Trevithick (Chairman of the ICF)
• Drummond Reed
• Mary Ruddy
• Kim Cameron
• Axel Nennker
• Pamela Dingle
• Ben Laurie
• Andrew Hodgkinson
• Patrick Harding

The Steering Business members include:
• Equifax
• Google
• Microsoft
• Novell
• Oracle
• Paypal

In addition to the Board of Directors, companies and individuals are joining now. For a current list, see:

What are the Goals for ICF?

The ICF Mission is to:

Advance the use of the Information Card metaphor as a key component of an open, interoperable, royalty-free, user-centric identity layer spanning both the enterprise and the Internet.

To achieve this purpose the ICF will:

• Promote interoperability via recommendations, technical interoperability events, and working group reports for Information Card technology, policy, and user experience.

• Provide guidance and support for projects advancing Information Card infrastructure on the widest possible range of platforms, including freely available open source implementations.

• Encourage the development of policy frameworks, identity rights agreements, auditing mechanisms and other means of ensuring that Information Cards meet social and legal requirements.

• Engage in promotional and marketing activities to encourage the adoption of
Information Cards.

• Create and maintain an open community portal that:

o Provides easy access to tools and resources about Information Cards.
o Supports a community of designers, architects, and developers working on
Information Card-based projects, protocols, and applications.
o Promotes Information Cards to users, sites, communities, governments, and any other interested audience.

What is unique about ICF?

Creating a vendor-independent protocol using a neutral identity framework on the Internet requires an approach that is inclusive to all vendors and identity technology protocols and specifications. The approach must be both forward-looking and inclusive of all identity initiatives created over the past decade.

ICF members believe that by creating technology that is both vendor and protocolneutral, and basing that technology on user-controlled identity principles, it can dramatically simplify and secure the online experience for Internet users. For businesses, Information Card technology can increase the market potential for all companies because the user experience is so vastly improved and protected, and because they unify usage of both existing and new protocols.

Is the ICF a specification organization?

No. The overarching intent of ICF is to promote and accelerate Information Card adoption. This will be done primarily through marketing activities and open source software implementations. If existing specifications can be used or easily extended, they will be. Only if a new specification is needed will ICF approve a working group to make recommendations toward a specification. An actual specification would be done through an internationally recognized standards body. How will the ICF work with other identity-related organizations? ICF will work with:

How will the ICF work with other identity-related organizations?

ICF will work with:
• Protocol, specifications and standards groups.
• Organizations that promote user-centric identity principles.
• Other groups to perform interoperability certification tests in a pragmatic, inclusive process wherever possible to minimize cost and time-to-market, while
meeting a quality metric.

ICF will work with:
• Apache and Eclipse for open source code distribution.
• The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
• Project Concordia for identifying interoperability issues between protocols based on use cases advanced by the deployer community.
• The Higgins Project for specifications and code development.
• Identity Commons to promote the creation of an open identity layer for the Internet – one that maximizes control, convenience, and privacy for the individual while encouraging the development of healthy, interoperable communities.
• Project Liberty on SAML 2.0 and identity web services protocols and interoperability, as well as identity assurance and product interoperability certification.
• Microsoft CardSpace to ensure compatibility and interoperability.
• OASIS to support internationally recognized standards for protocols necessary
for Information Cards such as SAML, XDI, ISIP, et. al.
• OSIS on interoperability events and identifying interoperability issues.
• OpenID to ensure OpenID interoperability with Information Cards.
• Project VRM on enabling mutually beneficial relationships between vendors and
• W3C on improving the Internet identity experience.
• Any other organization or working group with a protocol or initiative related to
creating, maintaining, and improving Information Cards on the Internet.

Which community leaders started the Information Card Foundation?

ICF began as a discussion among engineers and architects who have been working on ifferent aspects of identity management for many years and who met regularly at various ndustry conferences. Led by Paul Trevithick, their dialog evolved toward solving the roblem of wielding verified claims about oneself on the Internet. The result was the eeds that have now evolved into the ICF. Each of the community steering members of he ICF has a significant background developing the infrastructure behind Information ards. (See their biographies on the ICF website.) aul started and today co-leads the Higgins Project for open source information cards, and is now CEO of Parity Inc. Charles Andres came from Sun Microsystems to start the CF and become the Executive Director.

Is this for consumers only, or for corporations as well?

While Information Cards are often discussed in terms of consumers, they solve many roblems corporations have with identity management systems. User and customer nformation is often out of date. Only the user knows his or her current status. Because f the uncertainty of user login/authentication information, corporations now are forced o ask for increasingly larger amounts of personal data to confirm who they are dealing with. Collecting and storing this data is expensive and a liability, as increasing identity theft breaches are proving. Asking for this data is also a barrier to e-commerce.

Further information about the Information Card Foundation can be found at