THE FRENCH government is planning to launch a central online login service that it claims will protect web users against identity fraud.
The project, called IDéNum, will allow consumers to login to government websites, online banking and mobile phone accounts using a small, secure USB device that they plug into their computer and which generates a PIN to enter on the website.
Digital Economy Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said the new system would "avoid the nightmare of having 1,001 different passwords". She said it was "not only more secure, but more simple" - offering a similar level of protection to that of a bank card.
IDéNum will be tested by the end of the year and it is hoped it will be ready for launch in 2011. About 20 organisations - private and public - have agreed to take part, including La Poste, mobile operator SFR and the French tax and social security authorities.
A promotional video shown to journalists at the launch showed a web user registering a new-born baby with the Caisse d'Allocations Familiales, signing an online credit agreement for a loan and proving their identity for an eBay purchase.
The idea has been welcomed by the French Banking Federation and insurance body FFSA. Further details of how the service would work - or how it will be financed - are not yet available. A similar initiative has already been introduced by a number of online banks, such as the Barclays PINsentry device.