On Identity and Centralization

I was asked for a quote today to comment on F8 developments and the continuing apparent “centralization” of identity on that platform. It is not new for me to say these things but perhaps more crystallized…..

The turning point of the web becoming more social was mentioned several times today.

The issue at hand is fundamentally about FREEDOM: the freedom to choose who hosts your identity online (with the freedom to set up and host your own), the freedom to choose your persona – how you present yourself, what your gender is, your age, your race, your sex, where you are in the world. A prime example of WHY these freedoms are vital is the story of James Chartrand – you can read for yourself her story of being a “him” online as a single mother seeking work as a copy editor. Having a male identity was the way she succeeded.

We did a whole session at She’s Geeky the women’s technology unconference about women, identity and privacy online. ALL the women in that session had between 3-5 personas for different aspects of life and purposes. Many of those personas were ‘ungendered’ or male. I have not talked to many people of color about their online lives and persona management but should. I imagine that like women they choose for some of their persona not to identify racially.

Your “friends” shouldn’t be locked into a particular commercial context. This is where the work on client-side applications for identity management and social coordination for individuals are key. The browser was never designed to do these kinds of functions and I don’t think trying to make it do them is wise.

We need open “friend” standards where people are autonomous, without their identity tied to a commercial silo – like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, or any company. This is a vision of a web where I can “peer friend” my friends, and then no entity has power over our relationship. This requires people to be first-class objects on the web. Not easy to do, but essential for us to figure out.

Chris Messina at Google – Good for him, Google & The Identity/Social Web Community.

I was one of the first people to congratulate Chris Messina on his blog when he announced he was going to Google. It was a personal congratulations. I wasn’t sure if it was good overall for the open web vision or the community as a whole. In the end after thinking about it for a few days I feel it is a good move for them, for Google and for the community. The rest of this post explains why.

With Chris going to Google it gives them three seats on the OpenID board (Joseph and Chris are both community board members and Google has a corporate paying board member seat filled by Eric Sachs). It concentrates a lot of power at Google and I agree with Eran’s concerns from Marshall’s RWW/NYTimes article …why be “open” if you can just have an internal product meeting with Brad Fitzpatrick and a few other Googlers and “ship” a product without reaching out to others. I agree with the concern and I think there will be enough eyes on these individuals in particular and Google in particular to challenge them if they do that.

Thursday morning I sat at “geek breakfast” in Berkeley with a friend discussing Chris and Joseph’s move to Google. We mused about how many people we knew who “get social” have been at Google and because “Google didn’t get social” they were unhappy so they left, Kevin Marks being just the latest example leaving in the fall for British Telecom/Ribbit where he works for JP Rangaswami, the CIO who really gets open.
Given this, if “just” Joseph Smarr was going to Google he would be more “alone” trying to “do social right” at Google. Yes, he would have allies but no one quite as high profile as himself. With Chris Messina there too, there are now two major committed community leaders who can work the politics involved in helping Google to “get” social and actually do it right. If anyone has a hope inside that big company it is those two and I don’t think either could be as effective alone.
If Chris and Joseph fail, that is if they get frustrated and leave (which they can at any time they want cause they are very “employable” because of their profiles by a whole range of companies in the valley) then is a sign that Google doesn’t really “get” social and isn’t moving in the right direction in terms of supporting the emergence of an open standards based, individually empowering & social web.
With Zuckerberg’s statement’s about privacy and the recent actions by Facebook to make user-information public, Google has a huge opportunity to live up to its slogan of “not doing evil”. Over the fall Google made some promising statements on the meaning of open and took action spinning up the Data Liberation Front.
I know many people who currently are and have been at Google. All of them talk about how secure things are internally – it is not possible to go into their systems and “look up a user” and poke around at what they have in their e-mail, or what they have searched on or what is in their google docs. Algorithms look at people’s stuff there, not people. Google takes their brand and reputation for protecting people’s private information seriously. I am not particularly starry eyed about Google thinking they can do no evil – they are just a company driven by the need to make a profit. I worry that they might be becoming too dominant in some aspects of the web and that there are legitimate concerns about the monopoly power they have in certain market area.
I don’t see this as a Google vs. Facebook fight either. Chris, Brad, Eric, Joseph are all at Google & David Recordon and Luke at Facebook; they are all good friends socially and are just six people in the overall identity community made up of about 1000 people at 100’s of companies. Yahoo!, AOL, Microsoft (enterprise & MSN side), are all involved along with PayPal, Amazon, BT, Orange, Mozilla, Sun, Equifax, Apple, Axiom, Oracle, & many many more. They all come together twice a year at the Internet Identity Workshops and other events to collaborate on innovating open standards for identity on the social web.
I invite those who want to participate in the dialogue to consider attending the 10th Internet Identity Worskshop May 18-20.

I take the health of the identity community, its over all tone and balance quite seriously. I helped foster it from the beginning really starring in March of 2004 including 9 months from June of that year until January 2005 it was my first major job – evangelizing user-centric identity and growing the community to tackle solving this enormous problem (an identity and social layer of the web for people). I along with others like Doc Searls, Phil Windley, Drummond Reed, Bill Washburn, Mary Ruddy, Mary Rundle, Paul Trevithick, Dick Hardt, Eugene Kim & many others formed the identity community. Having put my heart, soul, sweat and tears into this community and working towards good results for people & the web, I don’t say what I say in this post lightly.

The Age of Privacy is Over????

ReadWriteWeb has coverage of Zuckerberg’s talk with Arrington at the Crunchies. According to him, the age of Privacy is Over. This is the quote that is just STUNNING:

..we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it.

When I first heard it in the interview in the video I did a major double take – “we decided” ?? seriously? The we in that sentence is Facebook and clearly with Zuckerburg is at the helm – He could have said “I decided” and he as the CEO of a social network has the power to “decide” the fate of the privately shared amongst friends in the context of this particular social network for millions of people (see my post about the privacy move violating the contract with users). It makes you wonder if this one platform has too much power and in this example makes the case for a distributed social network where people have their own autonomy to share their information on their own terms and not trust that the company running a platform will not expose their information.

It is clear that Zuckerberg and his team don’t get social norms and how they work – people create social norms with their usage and practices in social space (both online and off).

It is “possible” to change what is available publicly and there for making it normal by flipping a switch and making things that were private public for millions of people, but it is unethical and undermines the trust people have in the network.

I will agree there is an emerging norm that young men working building tools in Silicon Valley have a social norm of “being public about everything”, but they are not everyone. I am looking forward to seeing social tools developed by women and actual community organizers rather then just techno geeks.

I will have more to say on this later this week – I was quite busy Saturday – I ran the Community Leadership Summit, yesterday I flew to DC and today I am running the Open Government Directive Workshop. While I am here I hope to meet with folks about Identity in DC over the next 2 days.

Suicide Options for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

I have another post up on ReadWriteWeb that went up just after Christmas covering people who are choosing to leave Facebook or considering doing so along with the tools to help them.

Fed Up with Facebook Privacy Issues? Here is how to End it All.

It highlights two different Web 2.0 suicide machines; one is an art project called Seppukoo.com .

The service creates a virtual memorial for you and posts you on a suicide wall & they give you points for how many friends you had and how many of them choose to follow you to the “after life”. The leader board is here.  You can see the RIP page for one of the creators of the service – Gionatan Quintini here.

It received a cease and desist from Facebook and responded.

The response is not covered in the article (it wasn’t out when I wrote it). It has some great quotes that sound like language coming from the user-centric identity community.

5. My clients have the right to receive information, ideas, and photographs from those people whom are the legitimate proprietors of this data and can decide to share this data or to store it, with the prior consent of its respective owners. All of this is freedom of expression and the manifestation of thought and free circulation of ideas that is accepted and guaranteed in Europe and in the U.S.A.

6. Facebook cannot order the erasure of data that does not belong to it, acting against the free will of the owners of such data. This is not protection of privacy, but rather a violation of the free will of citizens that can decide freely and for themselves how to arrange their personal sphere.

We shall see how Facebook responds to this.

Web 2.0 Suicide Machine is more comprehensive – covering LinkedIn & Twitter as well.

Here is the previous Read Write Web post on the changes in what is and is not public.

IIW is NOT an advocacy group – sigh “the media”

Facebook’s Online Identity War quotes me and labels IIW an advocacy group. IT IS AN INDUSTRY FORUM. Douglas MacMillan.

Sorry but I am still learning “how” to talk to reporters. They don’t like to quote me as “the identity woman” and link to my blog.

I “do” run the Identity Workshop with Phil and Doc but that doesn’t make it an “advocacy group”

Identity Commons & IIW have a purpose and principles believing in user/centric identity. The power of individuals to manage and control their own identities online. We don’t “advocate” for them – we create a convening space for people who want to work on this ideal.

Facebook does on some level “agree” with the idea of user-centric identity – Luke Shepard has participated in the community for quite a while & they hired David Recordon. They sponsor IIW.

I am clear that the opening up of previously controlled information with no warning “jives” with my understanding of user-centric control. It was more from my own point of view I was commenting. That is with my “identity woman” hat on… and the values I carry from Planetwork and the ASN… but the press hates that. Uggg. Chris Messina gets to be an “open web advocate”… that is what I do to but just about identity “open Identity advocate” (mmm…) but then that sounds like “just” OpenID and it isn’t just about that one particular protocol. sigh.

I am still wondering – How does one “belong” and have “titles” in a way the media can GROK when one does not have a formal position in a formal organization.

sigh – identity issues.

Demand for Web 2.0 suicides increasing

I went to the suidicemachine and got this message

We apologize to all our users for the breakdown of our service! Within the last hours the huge demand for 2.0 suicides completely overblew our bandwidth resources!

We are currently considering relocating to another serverfarm. Please consider suicide at a later moment and accept our apologies!

You can still try to catch a free slot, but chances are quiet low at the moment!

More from their site….

Faster, Safer, Smarter, Better Tired of your Social Network?

Liberate your newbie friends with a Web2.0 suicide! This machine lets you delete all your energy sucking social-networking profiles, kill your fake virtual friends, and completely do away with your Web2.0 alterego. The machine is just a metaphor for the website which moddr_ is hosting; the belly of the beast where the web2.0 suicide scripts are maintained. Our services currently runs with facebook.com, myspace.com and LinkedIn.com! Commit NOW!

You can even see video’s about what happens as one uses the machine.

ok the FAQ’s get eve better…..

I always get the message “Sorry, Machine is currently busy with killing someone else?”. What does this mean?
Our server can only handle a certain amount of suicide scripts running at the same time. Please consider your suicide attempt at a later moment! We are very sorry for the inconvenience and working on expanding our resources.

If I kill my online friends, does it mean they’re also dead in real life?
No!   

What do I need to commit suicide with the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine?
A standard webbrowser with Adobe flashplugin and javascript enabled. So, it runs on Windows, Linux and Mac with most of browsers available.   

I can’t see my friends being killed, what happened?
Probably your flash-plugin is older than version 10? But yikes – you cannot stop the process anymore! Once you entered the login details, the machine is running the suicide script.   

If I start killing my 2.0-self, can I stop the process?
No!   

If I start killing my 2.0-self, can YOU stop the process?
No!   

What shall I do after I’ve killed myself with the web2.0 suicide machine?
Try calling some friends, talk a walk in a park or buy a bottle of wine and start enjoying your real life again. Some Social Suiciders reported that their life has improved by an approximate average of 25%. Don’t worry, if you feel empty right after you committed suicide. This is a normal reaction which will slowly fade away within the first 24-72 hours.

Do you store any data on your webserver, like password of the user?
We don’t store your password on our server! Seriously, it goes directly into /dev/null, which is equal to nirvana! We only save your profile picture, your name and your last words! Will the 2.0 suicide machine be available for other networks such as twitter and plaxo? We are currently working on improving our products!. Currently we are working on Flickr and Hyves, but of course we are eagerly thinking of ways to get rid of our “Google Lifes”.   

How does it work technically?
The machine consists of a tweaked Linux server running apache2 with python module. Selenium RC Control is used to automatically launch and kill browser sessions. This all driven by a single python/cgi script with some additional self-written libraries. ?Each user can watch her suicide action in real-time via a VNC remote desktop session, displayed on our website via an flash applet rendered live into the client’s webbrowser. We are also running some customized bash scripts plus MySQL in the background for logging and debugging, jquery for the website and a modified version of the great FlashlightVNC application built in Flex. Web2.0 Suicide Machine consists of roughly 1800 lines of self-written code.   

Why do we think the web2.0 suicide machine is not unethical?
Everyone should have the right to disconnect. Seamless connectivity and rich social experience offered by web2.0 companies are the very antithesis of human freedom. Users are entraped in a high resolution panoptic prison without walls, accessible from anywhere in the world. We do have an healthy amount of paranoia to think that everyone should have the right to quit her 2.0-ified life by the help of automatized machines. Facebook and Co. are going to hold all your informations and pictures on their servers forever! We still hope that by removing your contact details and friend connections your data is being cached out from their servers. This can happen after days, weeks, months or even years. Just deactivating the account is thus not enough! [emphasis mine]

How much does it cost to kill myself?
Usage of Web 2.0 Suicide machine is for free.   

Can I build my own suicide machine?
Theoretically yes! You’ll need a Linux WebServer (apache2) with perl and python modules (php should be installed as well). Further, you’ll need VNC-server and Java packages by Sun to launch selenium-remote applets. If you feel like contributing or setting up your own machine, please get in contact with us via email.

Legal Haze for Social networks. Identity and Freedom of Expression.

200907091809.jpg

The picture pretty much sums the conundrum up.

Is it ok for individuals to promote pot on these social networking services?

Should social networks allow marijuana dispensaries to have organizational presences?

(from an e-mail from Fast Company promoting this article)

The question is, whose laws do social networks have to follow? The Web may seem borderless, but as companies like Google and Yahoo have found in China and, more recently, Twitter and Facebook found in Iran, virtual boundaries do exist. So what’s a company like Facebook or Twitter to do? It will be interesting to see how Silicon Valley finesses this one, particularly because the companies are based in California where the dispensaries are considered legitimate enterprises (at least in the eyes of the law).

I poked around on twitter and found a whole Marijuana movement

along with the Stoner Nation Facebook page and Stoner Nation Twitter and on Blogger and their own site.

Interestingly I searched in Facebook to find the stoner nation page and it was not listed when typed as two words but was when I typed it the way their name is listed as one word – StonerNation .

It is not a surprise to see seems there are many fans of Stoner Nation who are using Facebook accounts without their real names. Like Oregon Slacker , Stoner Stuff, and Drink Moxie.

I think this liminal space between the legal and illegal (at least this is factually the case in california) is quiet interesting. The freedom to express oneself and organize around change is something that is important to maintain on the web – clearly these three people have chosen to weave a line – expressing their opinion and support and involvement around marijuana online and not releasing their “real names” on facebook or twitter where they are expressing support and involvement in movement organizing but making the choice that saying who they are may negatively affect them in their ‘daily life’ – whether it be a small town where they live that would be unaccepting or a profession they hold that would not be understanding. I think these rights and issues go beyond “just” drug use but also extend to sexual and other minorities. The marijuana community is activating right now because there is a ballot initiative here in 2010 to legalize pot and tax it (potentially generating 1.2 billion dollars in revenue annually for the state).

I think a question we all have in building the evolving open and social web is how do we support citizens having the freedom to express themselves online and in social contexts. What are the particulars of online identity that enable this as a possibility and don’t rule the fundamental right of freedom of expression out? I am specifically thinking about the equivalent to anonymously joining a social movement march in the physical world.

SSN’s can be guessed

This just in from slashdot:

“The nation’s Social Security numbering scheme has left millions of citizens vulnerable to privacy breaches, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, who for the first time have used statistical techniques to predict Social Security numbers solely from an individual’s date and location of birth. The researchers used the information they gleaned to predict, in one try, the first five digits of a person’s Social Security number 44 percent of the time for 160,000 people born between 1989 and 2003.

This is from the Wired coverage:

By analyzing a public data set called the “Death Master File,” which contains SSNs and birth information for people who have died, computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon University discovered distinct patterns in how the numbers are assigned. In many cases, knowing the date and state of an individual’s birth was enough to predict a person’s SSN.

“We didn’t break any secret code or hack into an undisclosed data set,” said privacy expert Alessandro Acquisti, co-author of the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We used only publicly available information, and that’s why our result is of value. It shows that you can take personal information that’s not sensitive, like birth date, and combine it with other publicly available data to come up with something very sensitive and confidential.”

Basically it means we shouldn’t be honest about our date of birth and home town on Facebook (or any other social network) or we are making ourselves vulnerable to discernment of our SSN’s. I wonder if they can figure out mine? I received my as an adult when I was attending college in California.

I decided to poke around and see what Facebook had up about Identity Theft. I did find a link to this study that created a profile by “Freddi Stauer,” an anagram for “ID Fraudster,”.

Out of the 200 friend requests, Sophos received 82 responses, with 72 percent of those respondents divulging one or more e-mail address; 84 percent listing their full date of birth; 87 percent providing details about education or work; 78 percent listing their current address or location; 23 percent giving their phone number; and 26 percent providing their instant messaging screen name.

Sophos says in most cases, Freddi also got access to respondents’ photos of friends and family, plus a lot of information about personal likes and dislikes, and even details about employers.

Facebook users were all too willing to disclose the names of spouses and partners, with some even sending complete resumes. One facebook user divulging his mother’s maiden name—the old standard used by many financial and other Web sites to get access to account information.

Most people wouldn’t give this kind of information out to people on the street but their guard sometimes seems to drop in the context of a friend request on the Facebook site, O’Brien says.

According to Sophos, the results of what it calls its Facebook ID Probe has significance for the workplace as well as personal life because businesses need to be aware that this type of social-networking site may pose a threat to corporate security.

I have tried to search the Facebook blog to see what they have to say about identity theft and apparently they haven’t mentioned it.

Facebook Changing Privacy Settings

This past month has been interesting for Facebook – they hired Timothy Sparapani as their lobbyist in Washington:

As a prominent privacy advocate, Timothy Sparapani, former senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that Internet companies have too much control over consumers’ data. The self-described “privacy zealot” didn’t join Facebook until seven months ago because he was uneasy about revealing personal information on the site.

He joins 24-year-old Adam Coner for the last year who has had as his main job “educat[ing] members of Congress and Capitol Hill staffers about leveraging Facebook to reach constituents.”

The current Chief Privacy officer Chris Kelly will be going on a leave of absence in September to focus on running for Attorney General of California.

EPIC has a very detailed page about Facebook Privacy. It is an impressive page that will give you pause. It outlines all the major features of the service it has concerns about. It has a list of all the EPIC Actions related to Facebook too.

This week Facebook is taking some steps to improve privacy from its website:

The power to share is the cornerstone of Facebook. Privacy and the tools for tailoring what information is shared with whom are at the heart of trust. Over the past five years, Facebook has learned that effective privacy is grounded in three basic principles:

  • Control. When people can easily control the audience for their information and content, they share more and they’re able to better connect with the people who matter in their lives.
  • Simplicity. When tools are simple, people are more likely to use them and understand them.
  • Connection. With effective tools, people can successfully balance their desire to control access to information with their desire to connect – to discover and be discovered by those they care about.

That’s why in the coming days, we’ll be improving privacy on Facebook by launching a series of tests that guide people to new, simpler tools of control and connection.

I wrote about some of the issues I have with Facebook when I heard Dave Morin talk at SXSW “Am I to “old” to get Facebook – or do they not get it?”. I highlighted 3 different issues:

  • What Blane Cook describes as “being in a room with everyone you ever met all the time”: all my friends from different contexts of my life get all the same ‘status’ updates and I don’t use them cause I feel like it is social spam to speak to them with the same voice and same frequency. I also don’t like that it broadcasts everything I “do” in the network to everyone.
  • “Real Names” vs. handles online – their belief they have “everyone’s real name in facebook”
  • The difference that women experience in online space and how they manage and protect their identity and what information is online.

Here is what they are saying about how to address this issue:

They are introducing a Publisher Privacy Control so that on a per-post basis users can control who sees each post. Friends, Friends and Family etc. On the other end of the spectrum, you can also share with “everyone” now.

They are simplifying their privacy settings. Hopefully this will make it more usable.

They are figuring out how to gracefully help people transition between the old settings and the new way.

They are asking everyone to revisit their settings…because:

We think Facebook is most useful when people can find and connect with each other, which is why this tool will enable you to make available those parts of your profile that you feel comfortable sharing in order to facilitate better connection. You will have the choice of being as open or as limited in the sharing of this information as you want.

The byline on the post is cute:

Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, is glad to be offering you more control.

Read Write Web goes into their understanding of the announcement and user experience. This is a long, good piece.

Personal Anchor on the Web for Digital Identity – CC Images

I got a request for the images I posted in “Personal Anchors on the Web for Digital Identity” from David Larlet to use in a slide presentation in France. I decided to open them up and post them here.

Below are versions with english text and a version without english text.

[Read more...]

FU – The Monday After, Facebook Usernames and Your Domain on the Web

Last week it was announced that on on Friday Night at 9pm Pacific Facebook had a name space land rush. Everyone was free to pick for themselves their username that would appear in their URL. facebook.com/username

I actually found this a bit surprising – remember the big debate on the Social Web TV I had with Josh Elman about “real names.” He was against handles completely and felt that the big value facebook brought was “real names”. I argued for handles and the freedom to choose one’s “identity” on the web. I made the point that free society – having the ability freedom to have the option to have and use handles on the web NOT linked to our given/ in real life names. Another thing is that handles help us navigate namespace clash from regular names. Max from MySpace is 8bitkid not some other Max in a sea of Max’s.

I ran into Josh Elman at the Building43 party and we agreed I kinda won the debate with this latest development. It seems that having peoples pages rank higher in google is helped by having readable URL’s.

They of course “strongly encouraged” people to just pick a URL with one’s real name and did so by “suggesting” names that were derivatives of one’s name. You could override this and type in your own name choice (however defaults matter so most people will end up with names similar to their real name – rather then being asked to think up one). They give users an addressable identity.

Max Engel of MySpace became /8BitKid – his handle “everywhere”

David Recordon surprisingly didn’t go with DaveMan692 – his handle most places – he is /DavidRecordon

My friend Jennifer became /dangerangel as she had originally signed up for in Facebook but they disallowed her to have it.

I just became /Kaliya (I am hoping I can get enough fans to claim /identitywoman for that persona)

What is particularly interesting is the layers of identity in Facebook.

With a Facebook URLFacebook has the one’s username is not one’s e-mail address as it is with Google profiles and one also has a common name (or as they say “real name”) that is presented to throughout the system.

Google ironically enough they ask if you want a “contact” me button on your page that does not give away your e-mail address when the profile URL gives away your e-mail address.

Twitter has /usernames AND another display name of your choosing that is changeable (the /usernames are not). However most twitter clients display one or the other. If you are used to seeing the display name and then are on your phone that is only showing @handle /username then you don’t know who is talking.

Facebook usernames is another example Twitter feature adoption by Facebook others being activity streams becoming much more like twitter streams.

I said when I first “got” twitter about 18 months ago – a big part of the value it provided was its namespace. It gave me a cool anchor on the web that allowed communication between me and others via the web.

So how is it going so far? Inside facebook reports that over the weekend 6 million folks – 3% of their userbase gut URLs. 500,000 in the first 15 min, 1,000,000 in the first hour and 3 million in the first 14 hours.

There were several examples of FaceSquating. Mike Pence took Obiefernadez’s name.

Anil Dash has the funniest post ever about the whole thing. Highlight the point that users don’t need facebook URL’s they can just get their own domain name. He repeats this throughout the post about what these services are not telling you:

None of these posts mention that you can also register a real domain name that you can own, instead of just having another URL on Facebook.

I completely agree with him – he also misses a key point the usability of facebook is vastly higher then the usability of domain name registration, cpanel management and other things involved in getting ones own personal web presence going. DiSo isn’t hear yet so we can’t link to our friends without linking capability that a facebook provides. I suppose Chi.mp was trying to

He links to a post of his from December 2002 called privacy and identity control.

I own my name. I am the first, and definitive, source of information on me.

One of the biggest benefits of that reality is that I now have control. The information I choose to reveal on my site sets the biggest boundaries for my privacy on the web. Granted, I’ll never have total control. But look at most people, especially novice Internet users, who are concerned with privacy. They’re fighting a losing battle, trying to prevent their personal information from being available on the web at all. If you recognize that it’s going to happen, your best bet is to choose how, when, and where it shows up.

That’s the future. Own your name. Buy the domain name, get yourself linked to, and put up a page. Make it a blank page, if you want. Fill it with disinformation or gibberish. Plug in other random people’s names into Googlism and paste their realities into your own. Or, just reveal the parts of your life that you feel represent you most effectively on the web. Publish things that advance your career or your love life or that document your travels around the world. But if you care about your privacy, and you care about your identity, take the steps to control it now.

In a few years, it won’t be as critical. There will be a reasonably trustworthy system of identity and authorship verification. Finding a person’s words and thoughts across different media and time periods will be relatively easy.

What people don’t quite get is that if they anchor their whole online life around someone else’s domain they are locked in. When I first started paying attention to user-centric identity online this was one of the meta-long term issues that the first identity commons folks (Drummond Reed, Fen Lebalm, Owen Davis, Andrew Nelson, Eugene Kim, Jim Fournier, Marc Le Maitre, Bill Barnhill, Nikolaj Nyholm, etc).

A few of them wrote a paper about it all – THE SOCIAL WEB – Creating an Open Social Network with XDI.

They liked the XRI/i-names architecture because it addressed the URL recycling problem with a layer of abstraction. All i-names also have linked to them a conical identifier – an i-number. This number is never reassigned in the global registry. However one could “sell” one’s i-name (mine is =kaliya) and that new person could use it but it would have a different i-number assigned to it for that person.

This past week at the Online Community Unconference we were talking about the issue of conversation tracking around blog conversations. How an one watch/track the conversation about one’s work if it is cross posted on 10 different sites OR if it is just posted in one place and one is distributing a link through 10 different channels? We never did get to an answer – I chimed in that the web was missing an abstraction layer – that if one could have a canonical identifier for a post that was up in 10 different places this would make it easier to track/see conversations about that post. What we do have now that we didn’t have 3 years ago for helping track conversations across multiple contexts is OpenID at least so you can see if someone commenting in one place is the same as someone commenting in another.

There is an additional layer of abstraction in the XRI architecture that supports several things are key to helping people integrate themselves and information about themselves on thew web.

One is cross referencing – so I could have have two different (URI) addresses for the same information (in the identifier – not just mapped over one another leaving me with one address OR the other) and also have one version of my profile be the one I controlled and a different be a version that appeared in a certain social context.

There is also a concept of much finer grained data addressability and control – so I could have my home address in one place and instead of entering this into each website/services/company portal that I want to have this information – just hand them a link to the canonical copy I manage and then I don’t have to change it everywhere. This is of course where the VRM folks are going with their architectures and services.

We shall see how it all evolves. That is what we do at the Internet Identity Workshop is keeping on working on figuring this all out.

Congress Targets Social Network sites – to be blocked from Schools and Libraries

WOW this is really intense.
The freedom to meet and organize is FUNDAMENTAL to what it means to be a citizen in this country.

This was in slashdot headlines and is quite shocking.

MySpace and other social-networking sites like LiveJournal.com and Facebook are the potential targets for a proposed federal law that would effectively require most schools and libraries to render those Web sites inaccessible to minors, an age group that includes some of the category’s most ardent users.

High Impact
What’s new:

A proposed federal law would effectively require schools and libraries to render social networking sites inaccessible to minors.
Bottom line:

Law would likely affect more than just social networking sites. Blogger.com, AOL and Yahoo’s instant messaging features might be included in proposal’s definition.
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“When children leave the home and go to school or the public library and have access to social-networking sites, we have reason to be concerned,” Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican, told CNET News.com in an interview.

Fitzpatrick and fellow Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, on Wednesday endorsed new legislation that would cordon off access to commercial Web sites that let users create public “Web pages or profiles” and also offer a discussion board, chat room, or e-mail service.

That’s a broad category that covers far more than social-networking sites such as Friendster and Google’s Orkut.com. It would also sweep in a wide range of interactive Web sites and services, including Blogger.com, AOL and Yahoo’s instant-messaging features, and Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which permits in-game chat.

Fitzpatrick’s bill, called the Deleting Online Predators Act, or DOPA, is part of a new, poll-driven effort by Republicans to address topics that they view as important to suburban voters. Republican pollster John McLaughlin polled 22 suburban districts and presented his research at a retreat earlier this year. Rep. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, is co-sponsoring the measure.

The group, which is calling itself the “Suburban Caucus,” convened a press conference on Wednesday to announce new legislation it hopes will rally conservative supporters–and prevent the Democrats from retaking the House of Representatives during the November mid-term election.