Way back in January, IBM unveiled a new cryptographic tool called Identity Mixer, designed to protect your digital data from hackers. Today, the computing giant is opening the technology to developers for the first time through its cloud-based platform Bluemix. Before today, the service has only been available in “experimental phases,” says IBM, but now it’s fully available and accessible for any developer to use.
IBM says Identity Mixer is based on 10 years of research, with an anonymous credentials system at its core that serves as a security interface between you and third-party apps, and can authenticate users’ identities without the need to share specific details.
So any service, such as Spotify or Netflix, that asks for information like age, address, credit card details, or nationality, won’t receive all of the information requested. For example, if someone needs to prove that they are old enough to use Netflix, they can turn to Identity Mixer to verify that they are over 18, without giving Netflix their full date of birth.
The system proposed by IBM would effectively remove the security burden from third-party developers. Companies would no longer have to concern themselves with protecting customer data because they wouldn’t physically have the data on record.
There are, of course, many other reasons why a company would wish to hold a customer’s details on file — consumer profiling allows them to cross-sell and upsell other products, to name one. But given the number of high-profile data-breaches in 2015 alone, there is a strong case for removing the security responsibilities from online firms altogether.
The issue of encryption has been a hot topic in recent times for a myriad of reasons — the recent terrorist attacks in Paris reignited the debate over whether tech companies should allow data encryption “backdoors” to governments, when that same backdoor could also be used by cyber criminals. Though related, that debate is separate from the security concerns around the growing blight of identify-theft in the Internet age. In 2014, it’s estimated that $16 billion was stolen from U.S. consumers through identity fraud, and with the seemingly never-ending wave of high-profile hacks hitting the headlines, IBM is looking to capitalize on the broader push for companies to invest more in cyber security.