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A look at the Kantara Initiative

Liberty Alliance is moving force behind new group

Security Identity Management Alert By Dave Kearns, Network World
June 23, 2009 10:29 AM ET
Kearns
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Last week, with great fanfare, the Kantara Initiative was announced. In a burst of bravado, the initial press release was headlined "Kantara Initiative Reshapes Global Identity Landscape Based on Industry-Wide Collaboration." But just what is this group?

Last year at Digital ID World I sat in on a session called "Identity Community Initiatives Working Together On A New Future", which was an organizational meeting for a new umbrella group called IDtbd (tbd -- to be determined -- cute, eh?). What I heard, though, led me to call this group SOLA: Son of Liberty Alliance. It's not just that the moving forces behind the group are from Liberty Alliance but also the proposed structure seems to derive from Liberty. This group, Idtbd, has become the Kantara Initiative.

The avowed messages of the group are, perhaps, laudable:

* Vision: To promote harmonization, interoperability, and adoption of privacy-respecting, secure, identity-based access to digital services.

* Mission: To help member organizations leverage a common set of resources, operational frameworks and best practices using open specifications to enable trustworthy environments for networked interactions

But the reality is that it is one more layer of bureaucracy on top of already top-heavy structures. As just one example, someone wishing to create an OpenID project would join the OpenID Foundation. The OpenID Foundation is a constituent member of Identity Commons. Kantara proposed that both Identity Commons and the OpenID Foundation become members of it. But the person creating the project could also become a member. Of course, that (to me) means the project never gets developed because the developer is spending too much time on hierarchical organization meetings as well as too much money seeking to be heard by those organizations.

Note that the president of Kantara (Roger Sullivan, from Oracle), the executive director (Brett McDowell) and the press contact (Russ DeVeau) from the Liberty Alliance fill the same roles with Kantara. The e-mail I got announcing the launch included a link. While it was labeled www.kantarainitiative.org clicking on it brought me to -- you guessed it -- the Liberty Alliance home page.

Admittedly, back when the Liberty Alliance was formed in late 2001, I thought the name was inappropriate. ("The Liberty Alliance might make a good name for an association of countries opposed to terrorism -- but, unfortunately, it's being used for a group of businesses united in their opposition to Microsoft's Passport initiative," was how I put it). At least it is now getting around to changing the name. If only that was how this move was presented.

Read more about security in Network World's Security section.

Dave Kearns is a consultant and editor of IdM, the Journal of Identity Management.

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