Digital Identity Management
Scott C. Lemon, Exploring Identity in the Internet Age


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Thursday, February 03, 2005

I can completely understand the natural human tendency to want to claim ownership of our identity.  I constantly see the statements "It's mine!  I want to control it!  I want to determine who can see it!"

After years of looking at this space, however, I have become convinced that our identity, as we know it, is already spread across the communities that gave us that identity.  That the basis of the First and Second Axioms that I posited.  I see identity as an accumulated thing ... and it only exists with language.  It is language that allows us to distinguish identity.

It is this train of thought that takes me to the Fourth Axiom of Identity:
I posit that for an effective community to exist there must be verified agreement, which requires a minimum of three community members.
As I stated above, I believe it is language that allows us to distinguish identity.  Language requires agreement on the meaning of words.  The only way to have verified agreement is to have a third party as a "tiebreaker."  This does not prevent disagreement, however it allows for the verification of a previous agreement.

Where I see this relating to identity is in the area of verification, or authentication of identity attributes.  Here, I mean authentication as in "verifying the authenticity of."  I can always choose to accept the identity information that I receive from another entity, however the value and accuracy of that identity information is always in question until I am able to verify it.  How I verify identity information will always occur using some other member of a common community that is able to provide the verification.

When applying for a financial loan, I can tell a bank about my employer and salary information, however they are probably going to verify the information with my employer.  All three of us exist within a common community that enables this, and this community has defined the language and protocols to enable this verification process to occur.  There is the ability to generate a verified agreement.

Even in a conversation with my employer, we could potentially disagree about my salary.  So what do we do?  We get lawyers involved - the third party - to examine the contracts and employment agreement to verify the information.  This can only occur within a community that has the same language and contract law.  Verified agreement.

In the digital identity world, this quickly becomes an important aspect of  any system that is going to replace our paper-based systems.  Often, just as in paper-based systems, it is not enough to communicate only the identity information.  It is often critical to also communicate the sources of verification ... some third party that can provide verified agreement.  This, in most cases, is also the source of that identity attribute.

11:05:52 PM      

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