Credit rating agency Equifax has introduced a way to prove that you're over 18 on the Internet.
On Thursday, the company launched a beta version of its first Information Card product, called the Over 18 I-Card. The card, really a digital token that can be stored online or on a user's computer, demonstrates how an I-Card can solve one of the Internet's thorny problems: how can you know someone is what they claim to be on the Internet?
Equifax's service is part of an emerging digital ID standard that could operate like a drivers license or a passport on the Internet, doing away with usernames and passwords.
Technology companies have talked about creating this kind of a unified digital ID standard for years, but, to date, nothing has taken off. However, the non-profit Information Card Foundation, launched in June has some big-league backers including Equifax, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and PayPal.
Equifax, one of the top three consumer credit reporting agencies in the U.S., sees itself as the "defacto verification service" for Information Cards, said Steve Ely, president of Equifax Personal Information Solutions.
Users must undergo a rigorous process to prove that they are who they claim to be, before they're issued an Equifax I-Card, but once they have it, they can use it to log into Web sites without having to remember usernames or passwords. Information Cards are stored in digital ID wallets such as the Windows CardSpace or the online Azigo service.
Ely says the point of the new Equifax I-Card isn't really to attract consumers -- there aren't even any sites that you could log onto with it right now. But he hopes that Web operators will see its value and support it, before the company makes a marketing push toward consumers. "We want to attract interest of online merchants and online Web sites that see the value of adopting these online I-cards."
Equifax has launched a demonstration adults-only Web site to show how the technology would be used.
Merchants will want to support I-cards because it will make logging-in easier for customers, and it may also cut down on fraud, Ely said. "Fraudsters are always trying to come in and get around their system, create a synthetic identity and do something bad on their Web site," he said. "They're very keenly interested in preventing fraud"