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InCommon Federation Now Serves 4 Million on U.S. Campuses

Posted on Dec 21, 2009 by Doug Howell
Tags: Identity & Access, imported, InCommon, InCommon Federation, Security & Identity, Single Sign-On, Trust & Identity, U.S. Education and Research Identity Federation

Ann Arbor, Mich. - December 21, 2009 - The InCommon Federation has announced the achievement of a milestone - its community now includes more than 4 million end users. The federation also has almost 200 participating organizations, including colleges and universities, research labs, agencies of the U.S. government, and private companies that offer web-based resources and services.

When institutions join InCommon, their faculty, researchers, students, and staff can use their organizational IDs and passwords to access on-campus and off-campus services, rather than maintaining multiple passwords and usernames. As a result, people use the same credentials to access such third-party services as library databases, multimedia content, research information and services provided by U.S. government agencies, and career center systems and tools.

"One of the primary goals of federations like InCommon is to allow universities to provide access to a wide range of off-campus resources while still protecting the security and privacy of their students, faculty, and staff," explained Kevin Morooney, chief information officer and vice provost for information technology at Pennsylvania State University and incoming chair of the InCommon Steering Committee. "It is gratifying to see that the federation continues to gain traction within higher education, with research labs and consortia, and with agencies of the U.S. government."

InCommon was recently one of the organizations recognized with the 2009 EDUCAUSE Catalyst Award, honoring innovations that provide groundbreaking solutions to major information technology challenges in higher education. EDUCAUSE, a non-profit association, has more than 2,200 college and university members and 17,000 individual members.

InCommon includes two types of members – identity providers and service providers. The identity providers – colleges, universities, and research agencies – already supply user IDs and passwords to their students, faculty and staff to allow them to access campus resources like email. Service providers deliver some type of online resource, such as a library database or a course management system.

When these entities join InCommon, they agree on a set of shared policies, processes, and technology standards. One of those standards is a process for single sign-on, so one set of credentials provides access to resources from any service provider, without the need for another user ID or password.

This greatly streamlines collaboration among multiple organizations because federation members agree on these policies and processes once, rather than each time they sign a contract with a new partner. It also improves security and privacy, as the identity provider releases only the information needed for the service provider to make an access decision. Many times, this does not require the release of even an individual’s name or other personally identifiable information.

For more information on InCommon and a full list of participants, visit: http://www.incommon.org

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About InCommon(R)

InCommon provides the U.S. higher education and research community with the common framework for trustworthy shared management of access to online resources. InCommon facilitates the development of a community-based common trust fabric sufficient to enable participants to make appropriate decisions about the release of identity information and the control of access to protected online resources. InCommon is intended to enable production-level end-user access to a wide variety of protected resources. For more information, visit http://www.incommon.org.