Jupiter Raises Doubts About Passport, Liberty Alliance

Friday, at Jupiter Media Metrix’s fourth annual Financial Services Forum, Microsoft and Sun will go head to head in a debate over which company is better suited to handle online authentication and authorization in the financial services space.

The event, which will be held at the W New York Hotel in New York City, will host Brian Arbogast, Microsoft Corp.’s vice president of the .NET core services platform, and Hal Stern, Sun Microsystems’ CTO of iPlanet e-commerce solutions. The two executives will take part in a roundtable discussion with 20 other financial-services leaders.

According to a new banking consumer survey – a document Jupiter will publicly reveal at the show – consumers have two primary concerns about online banking: fear that their credit-card data will be intercepted (59 percent); and fear that their personal information will be sold to other merchants (54 percent).

These concerns are closely tied to those commonly voiced about online authentication and authorization services.

In order to use online banking services, financial institutions must gather and maintain a certain amount of customer data, like account and social security numbers. As such, it is critical to offer secure solutions for this task. Both Microsoft, with Passport, and Sun, with Liberty Alliance, are looking to capitalize on the financial services community’s need in this area.

Raj Dhinsa, an analyst for Jupiter, says demand for online banking services has created a need for deep, highly personalized systems for storing customer data. He says Microsoft’s Passport, however, is cause for concern among legislators, analysts and consumers alike.

Since Passport, which already reportedly has over 200,000 subscribers, gives Microsoft a tremendous amount of control over customer data, Dhinsa feels Microsoft will have to prove over time it can protect that data.

With Passport, Microsoft is trying to make the solution as customizable per customer as possible, says Dhinsa. In order to do so, though, he says Microsoft must get subscribers to submit discrete, personal information. “With that amount of personalization,” says Dhinsa, “there’s just a chance for that discrete information to be exposed, and customers need to be wary of that.”

As for Sun’s Liberty Alliance, Dhinsa says he wonders whether the project will ever get off the ground. “Any time you have to bring a broad coalition together, and that’s what they’re suggesting here, its just a very complicated thing,” he says.

One of the key aims of the Jupiter Financial Services Forum is to shed some light on how online authentication and authorization services will be handled in the financial services sector; whether it be through Passport, Liberty Alliance or some other offering.

Right now, Dhinsa says, “I think Microsoft will slowly penetrate the financial institutions, but it’s going to be more of a ‘wait-and-see.’ It’s going to be just a kind of ‘putting-your-toe-in-the-water’ and see how receptive the consumers are, and then it will evolve off that.”

About the Author

Matt Migliore is regular contributor to ENTmag.com. He focuses particularly on Microsoft .NET and other Web services technologies. Matt was the editor of several technology-related Web publications and electronic newsletters, including Web Services Report, ASP insights and MIDRANGE Systems.