Core Concepts in Identity

One of the reasons that digital identity can be such a challenging topic to address is that we all swim in the sea of identity every day.  We don’t think about what is really going in the transactions….and many different aspects of a transaction can all seem do be one thing.  The early Identity Gang conversations focused a lot on figuring out what some core words meant and developed first shared understanding and then shared language to talk about these concepts in the community.

I’m writing this post now for a few reasons.

There is finally a conversation about taxonomy with the IDESG – (Yes! after over a year of being in existence it is finally happening (I recommended in my NSTIC NOI Response  that it be one of the first things focused on)

Secondly I have been giving a 1/2 day and 1 day seminar about identity and personal data for several years now (You can hire me!).  Recently I gave this seminar in New Zealand to top enterprise and government leaders working on identity projects 3 times in one week.  We covered:

  • The Persona and Context in Life
  • The Spectrum of Identity
  • What is Trust?
  • A Field Guide to Internet Trust
  • What is Personal Data
  • Market Models for Personal Data
  • Government Initiatives Globally in eID & Personal Data

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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.

 

 

The Nymwars and what they mean: summary of my posts to date.

Update: Google relented a bit, however I am still waiting to see if my name of choice was approved. You can read about the process I had to go through here. The New Google Names Process

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For those of you coming from the Mercury News story on the NymWars exploding

I STILL have my Google+ profile suspended for using a  [  .  ] as my last name.  Prior to that I had “Identity Woman” as my last name and prior to that… before I ever got a G+ profile and since I started using Gmail and Google Profiles I had a   [  *   ]as my last name. [see the complete list of posts about this whole saga below]

It is my right to choose my own name online and how I express it.  Names and identities are socially constructed AND contextual… and without the freedom to choose our own names, and the freedom to have different names (and identifiers) across different contexts we will end up with a social reality that I don’t want to live in: Participatory Totalitarianism.

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Personal – a personal data service is LIVE!

It is a big day 11-11-11 for many reasons. One is that Personal emerged out of closed beta. Yeah!   When I first met and talked with Shane Green, I was so excited because I met a kindred spirit who shared core beliefs with the community around IIW (user-centric identity, VRM etc). I knew after spending 5 hours in 2 days talking to him that with his experience, personal leadership, and the funding they had already secured  (from Steve Case and others) that they were going to make a big splash when it finally launched.

As a bonus, the whole topic of Personal Data got coverage in AdAge yesterday mentioning both Personal and Reputation.com in an article:

Why Your Personal Data Is The New Oil

I think the biggest thing Personal has going for it its focus on design and usability.  Wire protocols (the technical bits of moving data and formatting it) are easy compared to how people can easily understand, interact with and manipulate the vast range of personal data they have, that is information which is personal TO them – not their tweets and photos that they proactively share, but all the “stuff” they should have a record of somewhere. Their car serial number, passport number, codes to garage doors for baby sitters and the kids allergies that need to be shared with playdates, school and the soccer team.

They are using OAuth, a key open standard, in their connectors linking information you have at one site to your personal vault in their store.

 

It is pretty simple when you get started.

1) You can add empty gems and fill them out.

2) You can share them with others… and also revoke permissions.

Anyone who sees a gem you have given access to has to agree to your “control” of the data and that when it is revoked they don’t keep a copy of it. They also can’t share it with others without your permission (you would give that other party access to your gem if you wanted to share with them). 

3) You can look for gems that have already been created by others about things they own or preferences/needs they have.

4) And get the mobile app.

Now that they have launched, I am going to dive in and start playing with gems and sharing relevant ones with friends and colleagues.

Other key items to note are the coming anonymity features they are planning on rolling out.

We believe strongly in your right to remain anonymous when you choose. At present, we only support remaining anonymous when publishing community gems, but will be rolling out new anonymity features in the very near future.

 

Web Wide Sentence Level Annotation -> Hypothes.is

I first met Dan Whaley last spring via an introduction from Jim Fournier co-founder of Planetwork.  I was inspired by the vision he was working on building Hypothes.is -  a way to have sentence level annotation of news and other articles on a web wide scale. Really a foundation for peer review on the web. The motivation for his work is to support greater discernment of the truth around climate change and other key issues facing our society and our planet.  (Another area I could see this being really useful right now is around accountability in the financial system and ways to make that real.)

He asked me to be a part of the project as an advisor particularly around identity issues and technology options for identity.  He is taking my advice and coming to IIW this coming week.  Its an honor to be amongst other distinguished advisors like Brewster Kahle,  John Perry Barlow,  Mark Surman and others..

He has been working on a development plan and has a solid on one in place.  He has launched a Kickstarter Campaign and  stars in the video that articulates the vision of the project.  If you are inspired by the vision I encourage you to contribute.