Real Names vs Nyms at Quora & Unconferences

I am again in a #nymwar [wikipedia & Botgirl’s Scoop.it] situation that I actually care about. I have been denied full participation in Quora for a long long time now because my last name was listed as IdentityWoman (ironically my answer to why having control over your identity and personal data online matters did go through but then was put into suspension when they insisted on changing my name to a WASPonym).

Now there is a thread all about an unconfernece for women of Quora and they have mentioned both Unconference.net my business and She’s Geeky that I founded in the threads. I for this one important conversation bow to the “feudal lord”  of Quora as their humble “content producing servent” share my so-called real name…and help them have a good unconference and raise the issues of real name requirements within the context of real human beings who engage with the site all the time and hopefully staff as well.  Until we have the freedom to choose our names for public interactions on the web – to define our own identities based on our context and how we wish to appear where – we do not live in a free society.

 

Before they “banned” me for having the wrong color skin name. I got to write an eloquent to this question (posted below since it isn’t on their site).

Why does owning one’s own online identity and personal data matter?

and was voted to the top (with 5 votes) by others…but now that answer isn’t there cause I didn’t use my real name.

So now you can’t see it…this is akin to not letting me sit somewhere in a public space because the color of my skin is the wrong one OR I happen to sit in a wheel chair to get around and there isn’t room in our restaurant and they are in violation of American’s with Disabilities Act.

The women of Quora are talking about organizing an unconfernece and found two of my organizations/sites and are enthusiastic about them. I am totally unable to talk to them about their ideas or my sites unless I pass their “real names” test….you know like a pole tax … that Bob and I talked about in our Cloud Identity Summit closing Keynote about Identification and Social Justice (slides and videos will be online soon).

My answer to:

Why does owning one’s own online identity and personal data matter?

We own our own bodies – we have freedom and autonomy to move around the physical world.  We have rights and freedoms; If our physical lives are terminated there are consequences.

In the digital world many people are not the primary “owner” of their own identity (in digital space the equivalent of a physical body is a persistent identifier like an e-mail address or a URL or phone number).  Most people’s identity on the web is “under” terms and conditions of a private company and they can terminate people’s accounts, their identities, without recourse.

Many companies with which people have their identities “under” choose to in exchange for providing identity provisioning services and things like e-mail. They also track and aggregate user’s activities on their services and across the web via cookies and other beacons.  This profile of activity has real value and is being used by the companies to profile them and then sell abstract versions of the profile information on ad exchanges.

Some have said we live in an age of digital feudalism, where we are serfs on the lords’ manors (the large web portals).

Having the freedom and autonomy to choose who we are online and how we express ourselves is important to ensuring a free society  with rights and liberty.

Adding some more: About one’s social graph… The links in your social graph in the current architecture of the web exist within particular contexts – you have friends in Facebook or Followers on Twitter or Professional Contacts on LinkedIN. Those links, those connections in a “social graph” are ulitmately owned by the company within which you made those links. If you choose to leave any one of those networks – all your links to those people are terminated.

This is an architecture of control. You are locked into those systems if you don’t want to loose the links to others in them. To own your own identity would be to have an identity that would give you the freedom to not loose the links to your contacts, they would be peer to peer autonomous of any particular service.

The next time there is a major social revolution like in Egypt governments are not going to try and turn of the internet or mobile phone system it is likely they will simply call facebook ans ask them to terminate the accounts of dissidents.