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IBM Researchers Honored by the Society for Computer Science for Smart ID Card

Prestigious Award Announced at INFORMATICS 2009

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Lübeck, Germany, 1 October 2009—Patrik Bichsel, Jan Camenisch, Thomas Gross and Victor Shoup* from IBM Research - Zurich in Switzerland, have been honored with the 2009 Innovation Award from the Society for Computer Science (GI), a German nonprofit professional society with approximately 25,000 members.

The award recognizes the scientists' pioneering work on a smart card to embed advanced technology that offers simultaneously both strong authentication and privacy. This award-winning project is one of several privacy-enabling technology innovations developed by IBM Research – Zurich.

"This innovation from IBM Research - Zurich enhances privacy and fosters confidence of its users," Bruno Baeriswyl, Chairman privatim, Swiss Association of Privacy Commissioners, Privacy Commissioner Canton of Zurich

Similar to most identity cards, IBM's prototype card was developed to store certified personal data, such as age, citizenship or if the user voted. Uniquely, however, IBM's card uses sophisticated, yet efficient, cryptographic algorithms to ensure that the user’s real identity, including personal attributes and behavior profiles, are never exposed to a service provider, without the users consent. This technology is suitable for a wide range of applications, including insurance, healthcare services, credit cards, or incentive systems, such as airline frequent flyer programs.

"I am pleased that the 2009 GI Innovation Award has been devoted to the topic of "Identity and Privacy", highlighting its importance in today's society. The award is well deserved by the team at IBM Research – Zurich and recognizes its ground-breaking work in the area of future design of electronic identity card applications. I believe that built-in protection, similar to what IBM has designed, can be key for the overall acceptance of electronic identity cards," comments Marit Hansen, Independent Centre for Privacy Protection, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

IBM Research – Zurich is a thought leader in data protection and privacy with a portfolio of several innovations including Identity Mixer, a publicly available anonymous credential system. IBM scientists have used this research as a basis for two projects sponsored by the European Union, PRIME and PrimeLife, whose goal is to empower users so that they can act and interact in a safe and secure way while retaining control of their private sphere.

Harriet Pearson, IBM vice president, security counsel and global chief privacy officer, comments, "On an increasingly smarter planet, as health care, security, and other systems become more intelligent and interconnected, it is becoming more critical for individuals to actively and securely control who has access to information that uniquely identifies them."

Mixing Up the Data on Purpose

For several years, IBM scientists have been developing IBM Identity Mixer as an online, web-based tool, but with this recent breakthrough demonstrates the versatility of this powerful technology, which can now be used on a smart card. In this format, a government-issued identity card, for example, could allow citizens to use their card in privacy-sensitive applications with third parties, while being confident that their personal data is very well protected.

For example, imagine you are in need of a minor operation and choose to consult an online medical recommendation portal offered by your insurance provider. To protect your privacy, the insurance provider allows you to access the portal with Identity Mixer. By that, you can search for advice in complete anonymity. The system even makes your identity transactions untraceable, thus, protects you profile-building that may infringe your privacy.

As part of its open innovation initiative, IBM has made the Identity Mixer library publicly available for download as part of the PRIME project.

IBM is a leading vendor in identity management and access control. IBM currently offers software, in use for instance by large governments, healthcare organizations and financial institutions, which governs people’s identities as well as protects the people’s sensitive information. At the same time, IBM Research has a history of being at the forefront of identity and privacy research. Its Identity Mixer offers another dimension to IBM’s industry-leading technologies, which facilitates user-centric identity management and strongly protects the privacy of consumers and businesses.

The Society for Computer Science (GI) is a nonprofit professional society and the the German chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery with approximately 25,000 members across academia, business, public administration and research, for the promotion and progress of computer science. With the Innovation Award, the society for computer science honors hands-on innovations and patented inventions in the realm of computer science.


*Victor Shoup is a professor at the computer science department of New York University (NYU). He contributed to this work while being on a research sabbatical at IBM Research – Zurich.

Press contact

Nicole Strachowski
Media Relations
IBM Research - Zurich
Tel +41 44 724 84 45

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