Is PayPal the ‘killer app’ for Identity?

paypal-logoAt great risk of dating myself, I was using PCs before the first killer app (Lotus 1-2-3) was launched in 1983.  This spreadsheet software was so useful to companies that PC sales skyrocketed and a revolution was started.  Killer apps have a way of shaking things up.

Email is often referred to as the killer app for the Internet, because it was the first widely used tool that required connected networks.  I was using email on internal networks prior to my first Internet mail account, but the real utility of Internet-based email launched me (and millions of others) into a habit that continues to hold.

A killer app for identity management has yet to emerge, but the folks and eBay and PayPal are looking to change that.  eBay’s foray into identity, PayPal Identity Services, hopes to solve the convenience, security and privacy problem associated with having dozens of online accounts.  Users register by providing information that can be can verified by a third party such as a bank. The service then issues an Azigo or Windows CardSpace information card for the user to use on subsequent transactions.

The PayPal Identity Services info card can then be used by the user to share information about themselves with e-commerce or e-government sites.  The idea is that the relying site does not need to collect a user profile — it can reliably collect the verified information directly from the supplied card. (Or, if it does need to create a profile, it could be automatically filled in, with the user’s permission, using data from the card.)

This type of service offers privacy protection, convenience and a more trusted transaction.  The identity management industry and its customers are eager to have these solutions available to support higher-value implementations.  Does eBay/PayPal have the marketing savvy and presence necessary to make this the identity killer app?

If it does gain ground, it would change the way organizations and companies offer enhanced services to their users.  The ability to rely on a quality credential from another party is a game-changer: higher levels of identity assurance, more simply achieved, will allow greater value transactions and more frequent online business to take place.

Mike

For more on information cards, please visit the Information Card Foundation.

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