Liberty Alliance To Create Privacy for Phone Transactions

The Liberty Alliance today announced it will write specifications designed to enhance the privacy of mobile messaging, a lucrative, but insecure way of selling content. The alliance is a consortium of industry representatives working to create online authentication standards.

The newly formed alliance team will focus on SMS (short message service) and MMS (multimedia messaging service) standards, which will make it easier for content providers to offer paid services such as ring tones, skins and wallpaper. The sale of mobile content is growing quickly, especially in Europe, the alliance said in a press release.

Private Lines

Consumers reveal their phone numbers to content provides when they send an SMS and MMS during a purchase, which Timo Skytta, vice president of the Liberty Alliance and director of Web services at Nokia, calls “a huge opportunity for privacy intrusion and increased spam.”

The Content SMS & MMS (CSM) Service Interface Specifications will create a mobile network that content providers can use to send and receive messages without learning the consumer’s phone number.

The specification will be based on Liberty’s Identity Web Services Framework. It will offer different user identifiers for each content provider and updating of identifiers. Users will be able to end their association with a content provider at will.

Good for Both

One analyst said the standards will benefit providers and consumers. “I’ll be able to go through my carrier to shop around for ring tones. Because all ring tone providers can write to the same open specification, I’ll have a better selection and I’ll be able to find the best prices. But I won’t have to give up my personal info to a ring tone provider I know little about. I won’t be sacrificing privacy to gain the benefits of selection or price,” Jonathan Penn, principal analyst, identity and security, Forrester Research, told TechNewsWorld.

He said that the standards could make buying over the phone more attractive than Web shopping.

“Contrast that with the online shopping experience for retail goods: I can find the lowest price through Yahoo or Google, but even with the peer ratings vouching for the retailers not being fraudsters, I still often have to create an account with lots of personal data, and I always have to give out my credit card and e-mail address to these merchants I may only use once,” he said.

Trustgenix, which makes identity software, and mobile service provider Vodafone demonstrated a proof-of-concept application to alliance team members last Wednesday. The application allows mobile subscribers using their phones or a Web browser to withhold their phone numbers while ordering content from a third party provider.

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