Novell has released software it says allows Internet users to control their own online identity.
Digitalme is designed to make it easier, and safer, to respond to the user surveys often required to enter a Web site, Novell officials said.
"Everyone needs to be able to manage their identity on the Internet but in the past you've had to let others do it for you and you had no control over what they did with your information," said Novell's director of technology and education services, Glen Jobson.
Digitalme takes the company's Novell Directory Services (NDS) to the Internet. Users of the Novell's NetWare networking operating system are already familiar with the concept of an enterprise-wide directory that securely stores information about almost anything. Increasingly, users of Windows NT are becoming aware of directory services through the anticipation being generated by Microsoft around Active Directory. And quite a number of NT users have also discovered NDS since it recently went cross-platform.
The digitalme push is set to take NDS right onto the public agenda and into the hearts and minds of everyone who has ever had to log in to anything on the Internet. The concept is simple enough. You tell someone you trust, maybe your bank, perhaps your ISP, everything that anyone on the Net would ever be likely to ask. When a site asks you to provide that information, there's no need to start typing. The digitalme agent steps up to the screen and completes it for you. Furthermore, the data communicated between digitalme and the Web site is encrypted and subject to an audit trail.
Digitalme won't fill in any more information than you've told it you're happy to provide. If the site wants more information, digitalme will tell you what else is requested and seek your approval before handing out your particulars. You can even instruct digitalme to render an anonymous version of yourself to the Web site.
The digitalme information is stored in an online "vault", so users are no longer stumped when they use a foreign PC, to visit a favourite site. The first "vault" is being set up by Novell itself at a new site, www.digitalme.com.
"We're putting everything on the site that you need, as an end user or a developer," Jobson said.
"You can get the client there, you can store your details in our vault, and you can download the source code and APIs so that you can build your own digitalme clients."
Why would someone build their own clients?
"The whole Internet isn't going to want Novell to be the keeper of their personal data. We expect banks, online shops, finance advisers and Internet service providers, will want to manage their own vaults and encourage you to keep your details with them."
Why would you trust them?
"This software only allows them to store your details securely. It doesn't allow them to read what's inside. Only you, the owner, can see what's inside, and only you can authorise the information to be released to third parties," Jobson said.