The Tao of XDI

I've always thought Andy Dale was a very interesting person, but somehow missed out on the fact that he has been putting together a major body of work on his blog at xditao. In case it's not obvious, the name combines XDI as in, and tao as in what makes the world go round. I found it informative to go through the archives – you really get an outstanding grasp of what XDI can do for us. Here's a sample – and presto, you understand Link Contracts.

I have talked a lot about Link Contracts lately, so why stop now. As I have said, Link Contracts are composed of several, signed, parts. Some of the parts are network enforceable and some are not. The non-network enforceable bits are meant to be enforced in some social system of accountability. These non-network enforceable bits are what I refer to as the ‘Terms and Conditions’ of the data sharing. The bit that says “You may not sell my data. You may not use my data for any purpose other than the original purpose of this agreement”, that kind of stuff. The problem with these terms and conditions is, they aren’t meant to be network enforceable or, therefore, machine understandable.

So if we don’t do this right this is what happens:

I address an email to you with your i-name. My email client asks your authority for your current email address. Your authority returns a response that says; you can have that info if you agree to these terms and conditions. My client is meant to sign these terms and conditions and return them to your authority in order to get the data I require. SO, the problem is; I don’t want to read some terms and conditions every time I do anything that involves someone else’s data. You know I’m not going to read it anyway, but I don’t even want to have to do that extra click. I mean, who knows what’s in those terms and conditions? What’s to stop you from adding some line 20 pages down that says “By signing this agreement you agree to pay me $500”. If this is how it worked, the Dataweb would be broken before it even started.

So… what do we do?

Rather than us all writing and using our own DSA (Data Sharing Agreements; terms and conditions) we will use ones provided by ‘trusted third parties’. I can read IDC (Identity Commons) Standard DSA #5 once and setup a preference that I am always willing to accept data under those terms. So in future when I ask for your email, you will say “under IDC DSA #5 (version 1.3)” my email client will simply sign the contract and send it back.

Now, the reality is, I’m probably not even going to read the IDC DSAs but that’s the point of having it provided by an organization that is ALL about trust. I know that if IDC publishes this DSA under their name… it must be ok. Ultimately there may be other organizations that provide DSAs that we can all trust, or at least use; Visa, HIPAA, SEC, etc…

For now we need to bootstrap this ecosystem. I have worked with Owen of IDC to outline three basic DSAs that can get us started;-

    1. Basic – This one will put some simple constraints on the consumer of the data to ‘respect’ the owner’s privacy. This is the first real step toward giving the individual some control over their virtual self. It will include:

      • No selling my data
      • No giving my data away
      • Only use my data in the context in which this agreement was forged
      • Upon request or discontinuation of this agreement you will anonymize or remove my data, remove all PII (Personally Identifying Information) and any contact channel information (address info). I call for anonymization as an option as companies must have the ability to execute their operational reporting and auditing.

    2. Wild West – This is for the organization that wants to take advantage of the higher quality data source that the Dataweb provides, but cannot, for technical, business or other reasons, conform to the restrictions of the Basic DSA. Accepting this agreement would be no different from filling out a registration form at a service today, just easier for all concerned.

    3. Full Empowerment – This agreement is for the truly forward thinking organization. Under this agreement the requester of the data offers reciprocation. They say they will give you a copy of your transaction records in exchange for having access to your data. In practice this would mean that I give netflicks access to my contact info and they will, automatically, programmatically, give me a copy of the list of movies I have rented ( and how much I spent, and how long I kept them and all that good stuff). When the contract ends, I still have a copy of that information that I can take with me to my new movie rental provider.
    I characterize option 1 as individuals having privacy statements instead of organizations. Option 2 as, status quo and option 3 as the next step in the evolution toward a fully empowered consumer.

    Ultimately, I believe, option 3 evolves to a point where vendors simply use our repositories as the place that they keep the data about us. By giving us that level of control, and trust, and respect; why would we go to another vendor?

    Please let me know if you think we need another DSA, or that I am totally off base!!

    Published by

    Kim Cameron

    Work on identity.