MasterCard Joins Fast Identity Online Alliance

By Peter Bernstein October 11, 2013

Back in February of this year the FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) Alliance, an industry consortium revolutionizing online authentication with the first standards-based specifications, was formed. At the time I noted the importance of this effort and its potential as a real game changer, given the ambitious objective of making multi-factor authentication stronger and transparent to the user while eliminating the need for passwords.

The Fido Alliance hit the ground running with an impressive group of companies to start. The group got an all important new supporter with the addition of MasterCard, which has joined the group and been appointed to the Board of Directors.

It is important to note that membership in FIDO involves a commitment  to share technology and collaborate to deliver open specifications for universal strong authentication that enables FIDO-compliant authentication methods to be interoperable, more secure and private, and easier to use.

“As consumers continue to interact across smarter devices and new technologies beyond the traditional plastic card, we’re committed to continue to deliver simpler, better and more secure payment experiences,” said Ed McLaughlin, chief emerging payments officer for MasterCard. “We believe our involvement with the FIDO Alliance, as well as other activities across the industry, will help deliver strong security for consumers, merchants and issuers without impacting the consumer buying experience.” 

Image via Shutterstock

Michael Barrett, president of the FIDO Alliance, not surprisingly was delighted to have MasterCard not just join but emphasize its belief in the effort by joining the board. He stated, “Authentication is foundational to a successful payments industry, and to both e-commerce and m-commerce. With today’s news, MasterCard emphasizes the importance of getting authentication right...Payment providers such as MasterCard need to have authentication choice and control, as FIDO specifications ensure, to determine what works best for their business and their customers. The FIDO Alliance welcomes MasterCard to the board of directors, and we praise MasterCard for helping to lead an industry to much needed relief from passwords and PINs.”

For those not yet familiar with the breadth and depth of this initiative and the critical role it can play in accelerating the move toward facilitating easier and more secure online transactions, it is important to understand what this comprehensive this move to open specifications entails.  FIDO specifications will support a full range of authentication technologies, including biometrics such as fingerprint and iris scanners, voice and facial recognition, as well as existing solutions and communications standards, such as Trusted Platform Modules, USB Security Tokens, Smart Cards and NFC.

The open specifications are being designed to be extensible and to accommodate future innovation, as well as protect existing investments. FIDO specifications allow the interaction of technologies within a single infrastructure, enabling security options to be tailored to the distinct needs of each user and organization.

With PayPal and MasterCard literally on board, this initiative has momentum and, dare I say, “gravitas” that can help it not succumb to competitive interests that have a nasty habit of undermining such efforts. They are addressing a real market need, and watching the specifications as they emerge, the growth of membership and cooperation is going to be something everyone in the online transactions business should be watching closely.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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