July 16, 2003

Who are you? Who are you?

Joi Ito's Web: I'm not Joi Ito, that's just my name

There is a lot of talk about identity these days. You MUST remember that identities are like names. You are NOT your identity. Your identity points to you. Everyone has multiple identities

Joi certainly 'gets' the identity thing. I remember clearly in a Sociology class my teacher going through theories of multiple identities, dependent upon context. (Hello Geoff, hope you are well?) It was the first time I had really considered this but of course we do. I have different roles in my life for which I have different identities. Each identities shows different facets, from Father, Husband, Son, employee, manager, direct report, reseracher, blogger. How many of these do I actually need a foraml identity for?

I'd much rather see a link from a blog that I know saying, "this Joe Shmoe and I vouch for him!" Or go to a party and have everyone say, "you should meet Joe Schmoe, I've know him for years and I think he's great." Or if I'm trying to have a financial transaction, have his bank provide my bank with a guarantee. You get the idea. The only people who need access to your "entity" are people who have the power to throw you in jail or need to collect on long term contracts and liabilities. for MOST transactions, your physical location is not relevant or useful.

Absolutely. I suspect that that is truely the power of social and business networks. After all there are a lot of poeple I meet in my role whom I know I'm not going to buy from (suppliers, ideas etc). However I am more than willing to trust people I know and trust their judgement and viewpoints. I think to a certain extent that is why blogs can be so powerful. Not because of the technology but because they portray an identity - even if that is imagined.

So as we think about FOAF, cameras pointing at my face, location moblogging, it is essential not to forget that WE need to be in control of what information we create and how this information is tagged stored and authenticated. Peer-to-peer / end-to-end thinking is essential for privacy as well. Make client software that collects information from catalogs and locally recommends stuff to you, not central servers of user profiles. Empower the people, not the merchants and the governments.

UK law ensures people can view information held on them (I think its part of the Data Protection Act 1998) usually for a small fee, although most don't. However technologies (use of technologes?)such as FOAF and blogging do give you an element of control.

Oh, it occurs to me that Amazon recommend lists gives a good (not perfect) idea of different roles. It is obviously based on past purchases which generally reflect the different roles I highlighted above (father, son etc). Do I worry about this. No. But I do take Joi's point about privacy, and there is no reason why I couldn't have that function run locally right?

Okay- ther's lots more to this but that's enough for now.

Posted by Paul Goodison at July 16, 2003 09:29 AM | TrackBack


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