Internet ID: Are we getting close to one?

I am getting very encouraged that the big kids (IBM, Microsoft, et al) are closing in on an Internet-centric identification scheme that will be really useful for ALL of us who use the Web. I wrote about extensively here so won’t repeat myself, other than the major points.

This article is a must-read if you have even a passing interest in authenticity, trust, and some of the amazingly cool possibilities which might emerge once we have an Internet ID system in place. It discussed IBM’s release of code with a technology they’ve dubbed an identity mixer which “…will will let users pick and choose what information to disclose about themselves and next (in July) an identity selector for choosing the sources of information to use.

Why should you care? The promise of all this work are practical uses like single sign-on to Web applications; verification of who you are for transactions; autopopulating of data in Web applications; and so forth. But to me, the EXCITING use will be allowing us to proxy ourselves and the data within our profile/identity to those we choose to interact with online.

Huh? What do you mean by exciting Borsch?

Let me explain further about what benefit letting out a proxy of ourselves might do. Imagine you’re interested in buying a new HDTV. You shop and shop and shop online attempting to educate yourself about what’s available before you plunk down your dough. Once you’ve decided on a make and model, the fun of finding the best deal begins. But what if instead you could put your request for a quote online and advertisers, marketers and sellers of HDTV’s could come to you? Since they’d be able to verify that yes, you have the money (since your ID would contain your credit score, income verification and so on BUT would be opaque and private so they couldn’t attach it to a real human…yet), they would feel comfortable coming after you and your business.

What if your ID also contained your online reputation? Now a maker of HDTV’s could say, “Hmmm….Schmedlap is an influencer, a blogger and a user of social networks and a geek. If we get him to buy our HDTV — and get him to blog about it and tell 10 friends — we’ll give him a better price.” Several companies come after your proxy with proposals that toss in stuff (e.g., cables, screen protectors, stands, etc.) and other things that steer you toward their offerings.

Tim O’Reilly wrote about a Blogger Code of Conduct with some controls built-in to handle the trolls and anonymous people on blogs so that the blogosphere doesn’t devolve into chaos. I submit that — once an ID system was in place with the ability to anonymize ourselves or create proxy/pseudonyms THAT COULD BE VERIFIED against a real, secure identification system — there’d be need for a code of conduct but people would be less willing to do things publicly since it would be trivial to have their comments traceable back to an actual human. (Note: For every system like this in place, I’m well aware that gaming the system or hacking it is often trivial…and I’m not qualified to assess the security of IBM or anyone else’s approach).

The increasingly connected world needs something like this that works with, of course, all the requisite watchdogging for privacy…but I’m mainly interested in the exciting stuff.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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