Microsoft and Mastercard want to give you a universal digital identity

Microsoft and Mastercard today announced they're teaming up to create a simplified system for managing and verifying your identity online. From financial services down to email and social media, the goal is to forge a universally recognized digital identity that can be used and verified across services.

Currently, verifying your identity online involves using a patchwork of centrally managed items ranging from your passport number to your proof of address, driver's license, and login credentials. While Microsoft and Mastercard are mum on details for now, the two companies say they're working on a decentralized system that would replace these verification methods and work universally across services.

"Today's digital identity landscape is patchy, inconsistent and what works in one country often won't work in another. We have an opportunity to establish a system that puts people first, giving them control of their identity data and where it is used," says Ajay Bhalla, president, cyber and intelligence solutions, Mastercard. "Working with Microsoft brings us one step closer to making a globally interoperable digital identity service a reality, and we look forward to sharing more very soon."

The proposed system would streamline everything from applying for loans and filing taxes to shopping online and signing up for streaming services. Importantly, it could also work across borders. Further, Microsoft is setting its sights on solving three common problems:

  • Identity Inclusion: More than 1 billion people, a majority of them women, children and refugees, are not officially recognized; a digital identity can improve their access to health, financial and social services.
  • Identity Verification: A single, reusable digital identity can help people interact with a merchant, bank, government agency and countless other digital service providers with greater integrity, lower cost and with less friction.
  • Fraud Prevention: A single digital identity can help reduce payments fraud and identity theft of various forms.

Mastercard also says that the new system will "serve as the foundation" for new services it plans to offer built on Microsoft Azure.

"Digital identity is a cornerstone of how people live, work and play every day," said Joy Chik, corporate vice president, Identity, Microsoft. "We believe people should be in control of their digital identity and data, and we're thrilled to first work with Mastercard to bring new decentralized identity innovations to life."

As of now, there are no specific details on how this proposed universal digital identity will take shape, but it could provide welcome relief for the burden of remembering hundreds of passwords and submitting sensitive documents online.

Microsoft promises more details on the system will be provided "in the coming months."

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl