Microsoft and Mastercard have formed a partnership to change the way people use and manage their digital identities, the duo announced this morning.
Identity management is an old issue in need of new solutions as people rely on the internet to manage every part of their lives. Online identity verification still requires physical or digital proof from a central party: proof of address, driver's license or passport number, for example. The more accounts someone has, the more usernames and passwords they have to remember.
And the burden to users doesn't stop at passwords. The identity verification process is growing in complexity as companies find new ways to ensure the person logging into an account is who they claim to be. Microsoft and Mastercard want to provide a more secure and efficient way of doing that.
Their idea is to create a service designed to let people enter, control, and share their digital identity data with others, on the devices they use every day. A universally recognized digital identity could make it easier and more seamless for people to work with businesses.
This project, which brings together Microsoft's identity technology and Mastercard's digital transaction capabilities, will serve as the foundation for new Mastercard services run on Microsoft Azure, officials explain in a blog post on the news. The two are teaming up with banks, mobile network operators, and government organizations to make the idea reality.
Microsoft has been building on this idea of identity ownership, arguing that everyone should have their own digital identity within which they can privately store personal information. For businesses, this means creating ways to interact with customers, partners, and suppliers while minimizing security risks. Earlier this summer, the company created a new bug bounty program to reward researchers who found vulnerabilities in its identity services.
The potential for this "universal identity" concept crosses industries. In financial services, a single identity could accelerate the process of creating a new account or securing a loan. Shoppers browsing e-commerce sites could benefit from more personalized experiences and faster transactions across payment types, devices, and service providers.
Aside from financial opportunities, a single identity could simplify tax filing, passport applications, support payments like Social Security, and other government processes. Email, social media, entertainment services, and other lifestyle platforms could also be simplified.
Microsoft and Mastercard think their service could solve several challenges in the identity space. For starters, there are more than one billion people who aren't officially recognized, the majority of whom are women, children, and refugees. A digital identity could prove invaluable in helping people obtain health, financial, and social services they may not otherwise access.
"Today's digital identity landscape is patchy, inconsistent and what works in one country often won't work in another," says Ajay Bhalla, president of cyber and intelligence solutions at Mastercard, in a statement. "We have an opportunity to establish a system that puts people first, giving them control of their identity data and where it is used."