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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Digital ID World, Grassroots Identity, Does It Have A Chance?

AKMA, Simon Grice, Doc Searls, Marc Canter, Simon Phipps

Simon Grice, CEO, Midentity: examples of grassroots nondigital identities include t-shirts, haircuts, tattoos ("Be Yourself" barcode), vanity plates. Examples of grassroots digital identities include personal email domains, mobile phone ring tones (staggering amounts spent on this). Examples of issued identities: passwords, drivers licenses, credit cards. Grassroots identity is created by the person whose identity it is. Why should enterprise be interested in grassroots identity?

Simon Phipps: privacy is a negative thing from a business standpoint, describes what you can't do. "No digital ID is an island; do not ask for whom the legislation tolls, it tolls for you." More and more, people are considering their identities a personal issue.

Marc Canter: there's a personalization feature that only 3% of AOL users use, because it sucks. Enterprise tech is now making its way to the home. Employees of an enterprise go home, have a life at home, and bring their WiFi, etc. with them.

Doc: I get the feeling sometimes at this conference that we're talking about farming at a convention for paving contractors. Do the pavers recognize the need for farming?

Audience member comments that it's a question of markets. Thinks there's room for farming if the farming is profitable. eBay.

Simon Phipps: eBay is a silo. Ringtones are another example, and they're about to do some nasty things to us. They're not designed to protect the user, but to suck the user in for other purposes.

Esther Dyson: I think we shouldn't confuse an identity with a social network. There's a great power to social networks if your goal is sales. But trust may be inversely proportional to linkage. You may be a great eBay seller, but a lousy babysitter. You may be a great date, but ... [laughs]. It would be a useful social indicator to compare, on a Friendster or other social network, the people who say they're your friends rather than the people YOU think are your friends.

Simon Phipps: Agrees, you can federate identity but you can't federate trust.

Cory Doctorow: Cory is skeptical that individuals can ever have the market power to get entities to except their data in a DRM wrapper that they control. It's much more likely to work the other way.

Doc switches metaphors: we have a lot of dormant seeds out there. People won't care about having a grassroots digital identity until they find they can do something really cool with it.

Simon Grice, Marc Canter, Doc: Notion of selling your personal attributes to the highest bidder, we learned this didn't work. Instead, the models where you don't compromise the data that's yours will succeed. Doc thinks we have to sell relationships, or, as Esther puts it, attention. Right now, because relationships are isolated and structured, they don't work together. Coming up with one or two systems that allows that to happen will be the beginning of grassroots digital identity.

One of the things we're missing is a way to extend our identity in a contextual way into the digital environment. Marc Canter, yes, the essence of ID is context.

Doc, proxying for Andre Durand: there is something inherently sovereign about our own identities. What we're talking about is having more power to enter into market relationships and bring our own value to them.

Simon Phipps: online, we have secrets and public information. There's nothing in between. We're lacking a way to specify what you can do with semi-public information. We need a way to specify contexts and permissions for all information that is public or potentially public.

Doc, now proxying for David Sifry: email is a start to this. There are a series of social conventions around email.

Marc Canter can be bought. Objected in principle to supermarket reward cards, but a couple of $1 Thanksgiving turkeys put a quick end to that. He now guesses he's saved a couple of thousand dollars, and if they think they're getting value from his shopping habits, God bless them.

Doc: the whole concept of grassroots is relationships that begin somewhere and go somewhere. You lose this when all kinds of technical rules are imposed from the top.

Simon Phipps: the speed camera gives you a ticket when you're speeding your wife to the delivery room; the motorcycle cop gives you an escort.

Marc Canter: the things that a human values very often have nothing to do with lining anyone's pockets. I want to keep track of my music, manage my RSS feeds, interact with my friends, etc. I'm building my meme. If along the way someone can make a buck, I don't mind.

Simon Phipps: Unfortunately that view is unpopular with my CEO. [Laughs] Disclosure of the action, respecting and involving the person in the transaction, not engaging in subterfuge about what you're doing with your database, is key.

Simon Grice: whatever these applications are, they need to be incredibly simple. If I start having to use a number of different systems, I won't.

AKMA: if you think of digital ID as just a wallet, you're going to hit resistance. Must put the people first.

Doc: the consumers-as-plankton mindset, who just absorb whatever is cast to them, is done. Networked customers are much smarter than the typically envisioned "consumer." In a transaction based economy, the customer gets screwed. In a relationship based economy, this doesn't happen.

Marc Canter: some proof of this is how SMS routes around the Hollywood marketing machine for movies that stink. The message gets out from the opening screenings in a very rapid way

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