Google and Microsoft are among an extensive set of technology vendors aiming to spur the adoption of digital identity cards.

The two internet giants have helped form the Information CardFoundation (ICF), which aims to develop technologies to secure digitalidentities on the internet and which was launched today.

Digital identity cards are the online equivalent of a physical identitycard, such as a driver’s license. The idea is that internet users willhave a virtual wallet containing an array of digital identity cards,and they can choose what information is stored on each card. The aim isto replace usernames and passwords in an effort to improve security.

Alongside Google and Microsoft, large suppliers such as Novell, Oracle,PayPal and financial information company Equifax, have joined the ICF,as well as 18 smaller suppliers and industry associations.

“Our shared goal is to deliver a ubiquitous, interoperable,privacy-respecting federated identity layer as a means to seamless,secure online transactions over network infrastructure,” said BrettMcDowell, executive director of Liberty Alliance, one of the founding members.

The idea of digital identities is far from new. But so far vendors’ efforts have been fragmented and largely not interoperable.

The ICF is proposing a system based on three parties: the user, theidentity provider (such as a bank or credit card issuer) and also whatit calls a reliant party (which could be a university network,financial website or e-commerce website, for example).

The ICF argues that, because all three parties must be synced inreal-time for the transaction to proceed, it should be more secure.

“Rather than logging into websites with usernames and passwords,information cards let people ‘click-in’ using a secure digital identitythat carries only the specific information needed to enable atransaction,” said Charles Andres, executive director of the ICF.”Businesses will enjoy lower fraud rates, higher affinity withcustomers, lower risk and more timely information about their customersand business partners.”

The ICF now wants to expand its membership to include businesses, suchas retailers and financial institutions, as well as governmentorganizations.

It also wants to become a working group of Identity Commons, acommunity-driven organization which promotes the creation of an openidentity layer for the internet.