Microsoft buys U-Prove technology

With acquisition, Microsoft nabs technology that reduces likelihood of privacy violations for Internet users who conduct electronic transactions

Microsoft hopes to beef up online privacy with the acquisition of the U-Prove technology, the company announced on Thursday.

U-Prove was developed by Stefan Brands at Credentica as technology that allows Internet users to disclose only the minimum amount of personal information when conducting electronic transactions as a way to reduce the likelihood of privacy violations. U-Prove also employs cryptography to prevent systems from pulling together information about users from various sources.

Microsoft did not disclose a purchase price for the technology. Brands has joined Microsoft's Identity and Access Group along with his colleagues from Credentica, Greg Thompson and Christian Paquin.

Microsoft plans to integrate U-Prove into Windows Communication Foundation and CardSpace. WCF is built on the .Net framework and allows programmers to build and run connected systems. CardSpace is also technology built on .Net that developers use to build software and Web sites that are less susceptible to common identity attacks like phishing. CardSpace is used in sites that support shopping, banking and bill payment.

In a blog post, Brands said that since he developed the U-Prove technology in the 1990s, he has turned down many buyout offers and venture capital investment opportunities because he thought the business model behind the technology wasn't strong enough. However, the demand for this type of security technology has grown, he said. In addition, Microsoft makes an ideal driver of the technology because it can influence both the client and the server sides of applications, he said.

U-Prove may be particularly interesting in medical applications, military systems, and identity outsourcing, wrote Kim Cameron, Microsoft's chief architect of identity and access, in a blog post. U-Prove "is the equivalent in the privacy world of RSA in the security space," he wrote.

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