The Internet was built without a way to know who and what you are connecting to. This limits what we can do with it and exposes us to growing dangers. If we do nothing, we will face rapidly proliferating episodes of theft and deception that will cumulatively erode public trust in the Internet.
We have undertaken a project to develop a formal understanding of the dynamics causing digital identity systems to succeed or fail in various contexts, expressed as the Laws of Identity. Taken together, these laws define a unifying identity metasystem that can offer the Internet the identity layer it so obviously requires. They also provide a way for people new to the identity discussion to understand its central issues. This lets them actively join in, rather than everyone having to restart the whole discussion from scratch.
Those of us who work on or with identity systems need to obey the Laws of Identity. Otherwise, we create a wake of reinforcing side-effects that eventually undermine all resulting technology. The result is similar to what would happen if civil engineers were to flaunt the law of gravity. By following them we can build a unifying identity metasystem that is widely accepted and enduring.
The Laws of Identity are available in five formats:
The ideas presented here were refined here in the Blogosphere in a wide-ranging conversation that crossed many of the conventional faultlines of the computer industry, as well as in various private communications. In particular I would like to thank Arun Nanda, Andre Durand, Bill Barnes, Carl Ellison, Caspar Bowden, Craig Burton, Dan Blum, Dave Kearns, Dave Winer, Dick Hardt, Doc Searls, Drummond Reed, Ellen McDermott, Eric Norlin, Esther Dyson, Fen Labalme, Identity Woman Kaliya, JC Cannon, James Kobielus, James Governor, Jamie Lewis, John Shewchuk, Luke Razzell, Marc Canter, Mark Wahl, Martin Taylor, Mike Jones, Phil Becker, Radovan Janocek, Ravi Pandya, Robert Scoble, Scott C. Lemon, Simon Davies, Stefan Brands, Stuart Kwan and William Heath.
The discussion of the laws continues and our documents will be updated periodically to reflect this.