Will industry rescue the identity card?

IT Week recently ran a story quoting Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, that has raised an eyebrow or two in the blogosphere.

Industry may need to lead the way if the UK is ever to get a national identity card scheme that can deliver significant security and efficiency benefits.

That is the view of Simon Davies, one of the academics behind the London School of Economics’ controversial report last year on the cost and viability of the government’s ID card scheme. Davies told IT Week that now leaked emails from Whitehall officials have revealed their doubts about the viability of the scheme, the private sector may have to step in to save the project.

“I’ve believed for some months that a ‘white knight’ consortium from industry is needed,” Davies said. “Companies that can see the benefits of the ID card idea should approach the government about effectively taking over the project.”

The Home Office has long argued that the introduction of ID cards will deliver many business benefits, such as more efficient identity verification processes, less fraud, and more secure e-business transactions, and has maintained that it has been working closely with business leaders about how the technology should be used.

Speaking in her office at the newly formed Identity and Passport Service (IPS) earlier this year, Katherine Courtney, director of business development for the government’s ID card scheme, argued that while much of the coverage of ID cards has focused on the ability to tackle fraud and terrorism, it will also deliver such significant business benefits that “we will all be asking ourselves in 10 years’ time how we ever got along without them”.

Courtney added, “Because of the mobility of society and the development of the digital economy, people are leading more complicated lives and want to be able to conduct their personal administration more easily and out of office hours. These changing social trends mean that the capability to prove your identity is vital and this scheme will deliver the enabling technology [to do that].”

The Home Office is talking to public-sector bodies, such as the police and the NHS, and private firms, including banks, retailers, e-businesses and other large employers, about how they could use ID cards. The theory is that if everyone has a national identity card that can be checked against a central register containing biometric and personal details, tapping in a personal PIN code or undergoing a biometric scan will quickly replace the need to photocopy utility bills or show a passport for tasks such as enrolling for a doctor or applying for a loan.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, firms have broadly welcomed plans that the Home Office estimates will save the private sector £425m a year through streamlined identity verification processes and reduced exposure to fraud. In fact, these benefits could prove so significant that organisations will offer incentives for customers to have cards, according to Ed Schaffner, director of enterprise security at IT supplier Unisys – one of the companies likely to bid for part of the Home Office contract…

“The cost of identity fraud is built into the cost of any service,” Schaffner said. “So businesses and banks can say that if you use this card to verify your ID you can have a discount.”

A spokesman for one bank also said identity cards could make it easier it to serve disenfranchised sections of society, such as migratory workers and students, who are less likely to have currently accepted forms of identity proof such as utility bills and passports.

Another way the Home Office hopes the cards will deliver significant benefits for businesses and consumers is by enhancing the security of online transactions. The Home Office argues that asking customers for an ID card number and PIN code that can verify identity against a national register would give organisations a more secure means of identifying online users.

It is a technique already used in Belgium, where 2.5 million people currently hold electronic ID cards and government agencies and banks are using information on the cards to authorise online access to their services. Chatrooms have also started to use ID card checks to ensure age limits are enforced.

In future, attaching card readers and fingerprint scanners, such as those already found on some laptops, to PCs could further strengthen security. If the technology proves as secure as the Home Office promises, retailers and banks would be able to authorise far larger online transactions than at present.

Like many observers, Jeremy Beale, head of e-business at the CBI, has concerns about the technical challenges the scheme will face, but he also argues that a working system could bring huge benefits. “ID cards are not so much a disruptive technology as a stabilising one,” he said. “Firms have been saying for years that they want a single secure standard for online identity verification, and if the government manages to deliver it there could be huge benefits for online commerce.”

But Davies added that despite these potential benefits the government has not been doing enough to form a partnership with industry and technology suppliers to develop a workable ID card system, and it is therefore time for business leaders to take a more proactive role. He argued that management of the scheme should be taken from the Home Office and handed to the Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). “Industry has been left high and dry [by the government’s failure to make its plans clear], and the DTI should be able to rebuild trust with industry,” he said.

Alan Rodger of analyst firm Butler Group said there is a growing belief among some identity management experts that the government should leave the scheme to the private sector. “There is a feeling from some that we should let the market sort it out,” he said. “It would allow the problem [of securing individuals’ identities] to be tackled without the need for huge public investment.”

Separately, Davies argued that now some senior civil servants have expressed fears that the project is likely to fail, the government ought to publish all its reports on the feasibility of the scheme. “It is now all about trust,” Davies added. “The government has to restore some faith in the project.”

Simon, who has been a relentless and towering force in the privacy movement, responded to his critics as follows:

It’s important to recognise that context can be lost in any media report. In this case the quotes are accurate, though of course not complete. I’ve made similar remarks to conferences over the past six months, and for good reason. While it would have been nice to have seen the full conversation published, we all know that’s not the way media does its business.

I doubt that anyone who has followed the UK ID card debate, or indeed the debates in other countries, would have any doubt about where I stand on identity. My views are well known, mainly because government has made a point of repeatedly expressing them in public. I don’t resile from anything I’ve everr done or said on the subject.

As for these particular remarks, I will clarify the position.

1. You will know through the recent leaked emails that it is government, rather than Privacy International, that has lost the plot over the ID card. The Home Office is in disarray and Treasury wants it scrapped or severely limited;

2. You’ll also know from the leaked Market Soundings report that industry no longer supports the goverrnment’s scheme. I’ve know that for more than a year. Industry wants a manageable project that has a light structure and that carries public trust;

3. Into this context comes the idea that industry wanting to pursue the “right” approach (no compulsion, no central register etc) now have the opportunity to do so. Companies like EDS will always support the government line. Others are moving quickly to establish an alternative position.

4. The idea of the “White Knight Consortium” has been around since mid 2005, when it was first discussed at an industry-wide meeting of the Enterprise Privacy Group. I supported the idea then because it seemed the best way to derail the government approach.

I don’t see any need to defend myself, other than to observe how odd it feels to be hailed one day as the master strategist behind the ill-fortunes of the scheme, and the next to be condemned as a guy who lost the plot.

The “plot” is something I have well and truly in mind, and maybe you just need to reflect a little more on what I’m supporting and why I’m supporting it, rather than lashing out. Strategy and tactics on an issue like this are long term game-plans.

I've met Simon – in fact he's a privacy mentor for me.  It's true he's put a few noses out of joint over the last couple of decades.  No wonder – he was so far ahead of the rest of us in his thinking.  Talk to him for two minutes and you can see that he has worked with these issues for a long time, and understands them in a many-sided way.

Incredibly, in 1994, when people like me didn't yet have a clue we might encounter privacy issues with digital technology, he had already written Touching Big Brother – How biometric technology will fuse flesh and machine.   I don't throw out the word visionary lightly, but read this article and wonder.

Through his work at the London School of Economics he has spent a lot of time talking with cryptographers and computer scientists to understand what can actually be done to replace current systems with ones which really are privacy enhancing.  After all, does anyone think the current situation represents a Nirvanna?  Not me – I've seen too many of the existing systems.

It's true that through unlikely initiatives such as the proposed UK Identity Card system, replete with panopticon observation post and massive centralized database, the handling of our personal information and threat to our privacy could actually get worse than it currently is.  But I don't think this type of initiative will succeed – it's like building a sixty-foot man.

So, surely, it is just as possible that we can take advantage of the increased awareness around these issues – and the amazing new technological possibilities that have emerged in the last few years – to allow government and business to become more secure and more privacy enhancing than they currently are.

Given the proper adult supervision by privacy advocates and policy experts, industry could, as Simon says, bring to life alternatives to the Dr. No blueprints that have emerged so far. 

It may still be hard to imagine a national (or international) conversation that includes notions like “directional identity”, but I think it will come.  Governments will inevitably see that the way to best strengthen their own security is to build strong social consensus by protecting the privacy of citizens at the same time they look after the interests of the state.

As always, the key here is “User Control and Consent”.  Citizens have to want to use the system.  Close behind are “Minimal Disclosure” and “Directed Identifiers” and all the other Laws of Identity.  Any successful ID card will have to be more attractive than the status quo – proving it is a step forward, not backward, and winning support.


Anyone understand the MySpace “salute”?

Following our recent conversation on finding the time to blog, Ted Howard pointed me to this fascinating page from MySpace.com:

In order to verify your identity, please send us a “salute”. This means we will need an image of yourself holding a handwritten sign with the word “MySpace.com” and your Friend ID (your Friend ID number appears immediately after “friendID=” in the web address/URL when viewing your profile). We can then remove the profile that uses your identity without your permission.

Please be sure to include the web address/URL to the profile in question when you send your salute.

If you do not have a profile on MySpace please write in the email address that you are emailing us from instead of your Friend ID.

If the profile is an extremely obvious attempt to be cruel/false, you may not need to send a salute. Sending a salute will definately help expediate things, though! If you are a teacher/faculty member at a school, please click on this link.

That's so bizarre.  I'm missing something here.  I asked Ted if he had any idea how this works:

I think the MySpace “salute” is just a photo of yourself holding a piece of paper that has your login name on it. Apparently, they consider this to be physical proof of identity – they have physical proof that a given face is linked to a given login name. Now, I don’t understand how this helps anything, which is why I find it interesting.

What stops me from saying that your MySpace account that claims you are “Kim Cameron” is a fake and then sending a picture of me holding a piece of paper with my account name that claims I am “Kim Cameron”.

Crap! I’m on your technical advisory team I guess. Are the benefits good?

Welcome to the team, Ted.  Someone will get back to you on the benefits question.

The truth is that Ted is one of those very lucky guys who gets to program video games.  I sure would like to see him blogging about what that's like.



Liberty, Open Space and Information Cards for Apple

Red Hat's Pete Rowley on the recent adjoining Liberty Alliance and Open Space events in Vancouver – and Apple support for Information Cards:  

The Liberty Alliance made a bold statement in Vancouver last week when it opened its doors for the first time to the hoi polloi. Now this was something interesting enough to demand a visit in of itself, but with the addition of an Open Space after the Liberty meeting, well, you knew I was going to be there right?

The first two days consisted of the regular business of the Liberty Alliance where visitors were allowed to attend any session except for the super secret board stuff. I attended many of the technical sessions which were interesting, though sometimes hard to follow as an outsider without access to the documents under consideration. I also took part in a session around privacy concerns that not only assured me that Liberty has them but that they are serious about dealing with the issues. The conversation turned at one point to outside perceptions of Liberty itself and its lack of openess to its internal process and draft documents. Somewhat ironic was the point made that nowhere was there to be found any information regarding the location of the Liberty conference, at least not to those without access to internal websites. A consequence of this being the first open meeting no doubt. In all, an interesting and worthy meeting.

The final two days were spent on the Open Space which was run in unconference format by Kaliya Hamlin and was excellent as usual. Topics ranged from SAML to Liberty People Service to how should we rename this user centric identity thing? Kim Cameron wrapped up with a lunchtime introduction to CardSpace that by popular demand lasted for nearly two hours. At one point Kim was asked whether Apple would have an identity selector like CardSpace and Kim redirected the question to me in my capacity as OSIS representative. As the newly appointed unofficial spokesman for Apple I suggested that if Steve Jobs would call me I’d hook him up.

So Steve, call me.

Gee.  That's an interesting idea.

Like Pete I took Liberty's Open Space collaboration as being a very positive step in increasing dialog and understanding in the identity community.  It was great to speak with a number of the Liberty people who have been leaders in moving identity technology forward over the last few years.  It strengthens my conviction that we are on the road to an Identity Metasystem reaching across platforms and underlying technologies.

Learning from experience in eGovernment

The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) has posted the Webcast of Jerry Fishenden‘s talk “myGovernment.com – government the way you want it”.

This looks at how new technologies, the emergence of Web 2.0 and the citizen/consumer as creator enable a whole new model of government services and interactions, with the citizen at their center. It was part of a day's workshop themed around “Learning from Experience in eGovernment: Why Projects Fail and Why They Succeed“.

You can find both a streaming media version (which requires Realplayer), or the downloadable version (which requires an MP4 player – I had to download Quicktime 7.1) at http://webcast.oii.ox.ac.uk/?view=Webcast&ID=20060705_151.

Jerry is Microsoft's National Technology Officer in the United Kingdom, and a person I deeply respect for his wisdom and willingness to tell it like it is.

Some recent podcasts

Cardspace screenFor those new to Identityblog and looking for an introduction, here is a short interview I did recently with PTS-TV in England:


If you are ready for something more challenging, William Heath of Ideal Government got me thinking about the problems of overly-centralized identity technology in a podcast he described as follows:

Here's an exclusive interview with Kim Cameron, speaking with Jerry Fishenden to me and my colleague Ruth Kennedy. Famous as the Identity law-maker, Kim delivered Microsoft's Damascene conversion on identity matters and has become the catalyst for a new-found cross-industry sense of purpose about what it'll take to get digital identity and authenication that works for all of us.

He speaks exclusively to Ideal Government about the UK's ID developments in the context of state-of-the-art industry developments such as the Laws of Identity, Information Cards and the imminent ID big bang.

Note from administrator: (This was a 40 minute interview – the key sections are linked to the text below.

The whole podcast is available here.

This is the first Ideal Government audioblog/podcast so please forgive any clunkiness and background noise – it was a hot day and we were glad of the aircon.) Best way to hear the audio extracts

Firefox users: right click and “Open Link in New Tab”
IE users: I dont know. But when you find out tell me.
Also, anyone can insert inline audio to Expression Engine please tell me!

He sets out what he means by “Identity” (and there are many different meanings). He explains what Information Cards are, and how Microsoft has implemented them under the brand name Cardspace. He explains why for all its regrettable clunkiness the ageing UK Government Gateway is more secure and privacy-friendly than the proposed Home Office ID system, and it's revealed that there is a working version of Information Cards showing UK Government Gateway transactions. But this isnt Passport/Hailstorm revisited: it's as clear to Microsoft as to anyone that this has to work for everyone. We need a cross-industry big Momma identity backplane, and then the identity big bang can happen. But no one entity, country or authority can be in control.

He sets out where his work stands in relation to a user requirement for the ID we need for e-enabled services in the UK. Users decide, he says. If the system isn't widely adopted, it fails. As an architect, he expresses his concerns about the Home Office's ID card system. Too much information is in the same place. It's a colossal blackmail-generation machine. Every system will be breached, he says. If you dont understand that, you don't understand security and should not be talking about it.

He's pretty frustrated about the prospect of a lugubrious ID system which will inevitably damage trust in e-services. But a combination of the difficulty of the undertaking and the common sense of the British public means it will fail. The Brits are sensible, he finds. Tall as he and I are, we all recognise there's a limit: you can't survive if you're much over 11′. “They're trying to build a 60′ man here,” he says. All the technology people he knows feel the same way.

Yet he's very optimisic: UK identity systems can be efficient, secure, privacy-friendly and cheap, he says. The example of an ideal ID architecture he offers is pretty close to home: it's the Scottish Executive. How pleased will the Scots be to have an expensive and ill-conceived UK-wide system forced upon them, in a new West Lothian twist?

The House of Lords on Pervasive Computing

Britain's Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology recently issued a briefing on Pervasive Computing that is well worth reading.  In the words of the report, “Pervasive computing has many potential applications, from health and home care to environmental monitoring and intelligent transport systems. This briefing provides an overview of pervasive computing and discusses the growing debate over privacy, safety and environmental implications.”

A few days ago, the marvellous Baroness Gardner of Parkes led a discussion of pervasive computing issues in the British House of Lords, of which she is a member.  To some, the unelected House of Lords has seemed like an anachronism.  But as a simple observer, I am struck by the facility of some of its members in understanding the transformational force of technology on our society.  I wish more political thinkers shared their cogency and interest when examining these matters.

So let's listen in as Baroness Gardner of Parkes, in the company of the Countess of Mar, Lord Avebury, the Earl of Northesk, and Lord Campbell of Alloway, question Lord Sainsbury of Turville about the issues of pervasive computing:

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty’s Government:  Whether they will introduce legislation to protect privacy in response to the growth of pervasive computing.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, there are already in place regulations to protect privacy in the electronic communications field. The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 and the Data Protection Act 1998 implement the relevant EC directives in this respect. The Government will keep this legislation under review as the use of technology develops over time.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am sure that he will know that 8 billion embedded microprocessors are produced each year, which is an alarming number. The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology states in its POST note that it is important that the volume of transmitted data should be kept to a minimum, that transmissions should be encrypted and sent anonymously without reference to the owner and that security should be treated as ongoing. The Minister has said that security will be treated as ongoing. Evidently, there is some concern about whether manufacturers should be encouraged to build in safeguards from the very earliest stage. Will the Minister comment on that?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I do not know whether trying to keep the amount of information to a minimum is a realistic strategy. This will clearly be a huge and developing trend in the future; now that microprocessors have in-built communications, this will be a growing field. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations were introduced to address just these questions. They require, for example, a system of consents for processing location-based data. Service providers are required to take appropriate technical and organisational measures to safeguard the security of services. For the moment, that seems to be appropriate legislation but, as I said, we will need to keep it under review as the technology develops.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, what is Her Majesty's Government’s view on the report of the Leeds NHS trust, which stated that there were 70,000 instances of illegal access to patient data in one month?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, patient data would be covered by the Data Protection Act. Clearly, if there is that number of instances of illegal access to data, there is something wrong with the systems in that place. That should be taken up in the light of the Data Protection Act.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the British Computer Society has appointed an expert committee to look into the implications of pervasive computing? If any legislative changes are required, it would be sensible to wait until that committee had reported. On medical applications, does the Minister agree that the use of devices for sending data from within a patient’s body to outside recorders has proved to be an enormously valuable diagnostic tool, with no privacy implications for the patients?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, we must wait and see how the technology develops before we rush into any kind of regulation to control it. There have, as yet, been no complaints to the Information Commissioner on this area of location-based services. Information taken out of people’s bodies by such technology can clearly be enormously helpful medically.

The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the issue is as much about ownership of the huge amount of data routinely collected about all of us as it is about privacy? If so, what stance do the Government take on the questionable legality of the Home Office authorising the DNA database to be used by the Forensic Science Service to research whether race and ethnicity can be determined from DNA samples?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the Question was about pervasive computing, which is a specific area. The whole area of data protection is covered by the Data Protection Act 1998. Pervasive computing is a completely different subject.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that there is—according to this POST note, for example—debate about whether the Data Protection Act covers the matter? The National Consumer Council is concerned about whether people could have all their information transmitted from, say, their home—or even their body, as was described in relation to medical things—and not know that it was being obtained or what use it was likely to be put to. That could be a bad use.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, as I said, there are two pieces of legislation: the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. The second obviously covers the security of data communication from one place to another. As I said, that involves issues of consent and security, which are well covered in that legislation. Of course, it may turn out that the legislation does not properly cover the subject and that there are issues to be considered. As I said, however, there have been no complaints on that point as yet.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, will the Minister explain what pervasive computing is?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Yes, my Lords. This is an interesting subject. Some microprocessors now have in-built communication facilities. The most obvious example of that is radio identification. I do not suppose that the noble Lord ever goes to the back of his local supermarket, but if he did he would see that packages that are brought in have an identification code that can be read electronically without taking the goods off the pallet. That is done by radio communication and is an enormous step forward in efficiency. The same principle applies to smart keys; one can open a car door from a range of three feet with a smart key, using the same technology.


Personal Identity Mesh

Identity Open Spaces are always interesting – uninterrupted hallway conversations that let you get to the nub of things – but this week's was different from the others because it was held in conjunction with a meeting of the Liberty Alliance.  This threw us all together with a bunch of people we hadn't met before, and frankly I think it was very useful.  We all got to present and discuss our work, interests and concerns.

It's hard to explain – or even imagine – what these meetings are like, because people are coming from such different places that their take-aways differ dramatically.  I'm sure a number of people will blog about this, but I'll just start by quoting Marc Canter of Macromedia fame.  One of the interesting things about Marc is that he just wants results – identity he can use in his products.

As I sit here in the blazing heat, periodically jumping into my pool – I’m feeling good about the last few days I spent in Vancouver.  It was great for me to get away from answering sales calls, improving user interfaces and dealing with Angel investors.  I found myself right back smack dab in the middle of an evolution of technology, where enterprise, mil spec encryption, security and privacy technology was being deployed for the purposes of each and every one of us to be able to control our content and meta-data.

Moving and controlling profile data is important, but we ALSO gotta control access to our content – based upon our relationships to the viewer.  Apparently Vox does this pretty well – but I haven’t checked it out – yet.

A lot of time and energy was spent up in Vancouver trying to define and speak clearly of all the different platforms and their nuances.  It was an Open Space effort, designed to correspond with a Liberty Alliance meeting, so lots of loosely structured meetings occurred where real work was accomplished.

One on hand you had all these academic and enterprise researchers and experts who are managing bank accounts, mutual fund accounts and health records, debating on details like ‘is it THIS or really THAT.  Then a bunch of the open folks – like Neustar and Cordence were there – more or less hawking their goods.

So in other words this was the “open user-centric folks” meet the SAML/Federated trust enterprise wonks fest.

I’d say it came off pretty well – espeially with Kaliya Hamlin leading the organization, facilitating the conversations and keeping things lively. I did my best to also “keep folks awake” – while only dosiing off a few times myself, during those insipid debates on “do you mean WHAT you mean or is that a semblence of meaning in your declaration?”  It was that bad.

As a vendor I went to this meeting knowing that I was a downstream participant, some one who’s issues are allot different from the folks who are tryign to stake our real estate around ’standards’.  You see – we (by defintion) have to support ALL the standards, so my only real motivation is to get as many of them to work together and adhere to each other’s standards.

And that’s what I did.  There was a whole session on ‘Protocols Converging’ (led by Dick Hardt) and that led to a few private meetings out in the hallwway, which is where al the real work gets done. I myself am excited about what Dick is gonna show and unveil at OSCON next week,but I can’t tell yah about it.

Or else I’d have to kill you……

Anyway – based upon what I heard at this meeting, here are some issues that are pretty easy for me to make:

  • At best we’ll get 2% of the populace using this stuff – even within the next few years
  • But many more people WOULD/COULD use it if it was readily accesssible, easy to use and they understand what the fuck it meant
  • Doesn’t really matter if it implements authentication, if that’s ALL it does
  • I agree with Kim Cameron – there will be two approaches to this area – card based and address based

And that’s the best way we can describe it to the humans.

The Identity space is really complicated, and our clients expect me to be an expert at it.  So I nerded out over the past few days and have the next generation acrhiutecture for PeopleAggregator designed with it in mind. 

It’ll make sure that real value can be delivered to humans – real soon now- regardless of whether or not they’re (the humans) willing to jump through all the hoops and grok all the nuances of the Identity puzzle.

There’s one inherent tradeoff for this.  If you don’t want to jump through all the hoops of getting a card or sigining up for an address (of just hacking one yourself) then you CAN’T COMPLAIN if you don’t get a phishing proofed, crypto encoded, secruity tight, hacker proof, scalable, long term, persistent unique identifier.

But if all that really gets you off, then you won’t mind jupning through all the hoops.  Those hoops require opting in, sharing, moving and adhering to all these rules – about Personal Identity Mesh. 

Getting a info card to be compatible with Kim Cameron’s Info Cards system, which will be built into Vista and is available for XP – right now – will be about getting something called a .crd fileKim showed using Info Cards to log into WordPress – just to prove that it works on a LAMP stack, open source platform.

David Recordan (of Verisign) led an excellent session on OpenID and talked about its status.  Drummond Reed was there to talk about XRI and XDI.org and inames.  All the major players in this space were there and talking to each other.

Dick Hardt had a session on coming up with a name for the unique thing we’re doing.  Its not a traditional federation, or circle of trust – its recognizing that inviiduals rely upon portals (or fancy webapp) software to get their services and that they’re probably dealing with LOTS of these services.  Each o these portals have all sorts of assertions, backend technology, web services, aliance partners and otehr infrastructure.  But what we SEE is the portal or NetVibes or PageFlakes or MySpace or Vox.

The human is then supposed to confer and rely upon (what’s known as) an identity provider or identity broker – which is usually an objective 3rd party – to verify their claims, assertions and transactions. We debated upon what to call it – but we all agreed that its something new and unique. I call this the “Personal Identity Mesh” – cause anybody can use any Identity broker – yet we’re all supposed to trust and believe in these ‘reputation systems (especially is Auren Hoffman has his way – with Rapleaf.)

Whatever the term is – its the universe that PeopleAggregator is going to support and help make happen. But we need LOTS of vendors to participate and the big boys – too.

I really like the term “Personal Identity Mesh” that came out of the “naming” discussion led by Dick Hardt.  It sums up what a lot of us are trying to do. 

I should also make it clear that I don't think there are very many who see information cards and URL-based identities as being opposed to each other.  A card can represent a URL-based identity, and a URL can be used, in a number of use cases, to represent the identity that would be conveyed through a card.  This doesn't work in all cases, but it works in enough important cases that it is very useful.

Finally, I think Marc's estimate of 2% over three years is overly pessimistic.  The big sites and big players can accelerate adoption a whole lot with the flick of the switch.  I've already had people tell me they are going to enable hundreds of millions of accounts with Information Card support.  If they do what they are saying they'll do, and if people like the experience as much as I think they will, there can be a serious network effect here.


The Identity Mashup held last week at the Harvard Law School lived up to its name.  There were an endless number of nooks and crannies and people with different trajectories talking and braintorming both in and between the sessions.

A lot of important things happened.  I've already mentioned one key development:  the anouncement of an Open Source Identity Selector project (OSIS).  If you are new to the identity conversation, an Identity Selector is the steering wheel of user-centric identity – the way people select the identity (visualized through what we call an Information Card) appropriate to a given context.  OSIS will create an equivalent to what CardSpace does on Windows.  It's therefore an essential piece if we want to build an identity metasystem that reaches across platforms and devices,    

But there's another deeply significant development:  Red Hat, which lays claim to being “the world's most trusted provider of Linux and open source technology”, will be one of the key participants.

Why is this so important?  First, because it helps bring us closer to a metasystem which truly reaches across all platforms.  Second, because RedHat's participation is emblematic in conveying the idea that Information Cards really represent an open technology and a rallying point for the industry.  Web sites can now add Information Cards and be confident they won't be accused of herding their customers towards any given platform. 

As Pete Rowley said in explaining Red Hat's decision to participate, “With so many companies collaborating on the project it is clear that this is an important piece of the identity puzzle and that the industry recognizes the opportunity to work together for the common good.

“The open source movement is much more than just Linux and we're seeing significant interest from customers and the community in building a common framework for identity interchange on the internet. 

“Like TCP/IP – having a common framework takes more than a standard to encourage adoption – there must be an express need and a community of use to embrace and extend – and with the number of folks worldwide now sharing conversations, there's an express need for easily confirming that you are conversing with who you think you are.

“Seeing the democratization of content take place on the Internet I am convinced that  with the advent of ubiquitous user-centric identity systems there will be a sea change in the services offered and the way we use the Internet.”

Wow.  I love this guy.  I think I can hear the identity big bang starting just beyond the horizon.  Hold on to your seats. 


From ZDNET, a post by Phil Windley from the Berkman ID Mashup held over the last few days at Harvard Law School:

David Berlind's not the only member of the Between the Lines team at the ID Mashup this week.  I've been here as well, watching the identity happenings.  The first two days were traditional conference style, but the third day of the workshop was done open space style.  That's a great format for generating discussion and this example was no exception.  I went to a session on reputation first thing that resulted in some very good ideas and principles on that important subject.

The second session I attended was a discussion of OSIS, the open source identity selector project. This project has server and client pieces as well as a security token service (STS). The server side pieces of OSIS will be part of the proposed Heraldry project at Apache. The primary purpose of Heraldry is to provide a home for open source identity projects, like OpenID. The client code and STS pieces will be part of the Eclipse Higgins project.

OSIS is more than just a small project to build open source identity selectors for Microsoft's CardSpace (formerly InfoCard); after all, that's been done. OSIS will support interoperability between the addressable identity systems (OpenID, LID, XRI) and card (or token) based identity systems (more notably CardSpace and Higgins). OSIS has the support of all of the major players (including Microsoft, Novell, IBM, SXIP, XRI, and Verisign).

This is really a historic development in the Internet identity space. Microsoft, before their own implementation of CardSpace even ships, is linking up with the larger identity community, including OpenID, LID, i-Names, and Higgins. Make no mistake, they've been participating and giving leadership to that community for a long time, but until now, it wasn't clear that all the various systems would be interoperable. OSIS aims to change that.

I don't actually agree with Phil's notion that “this has already been done”.  But I agree it will be.  The list of individuals and companies participating in OSIS is a who's who of important contributors. 

Why not? The conference was full of remarkable milestones.  I'll talk about some of the high level issues in subsequent posts.

But in terms of concrete and immediate progress, Michael McIntosh of IBM showed how he could use a Higgins “i-Card” to log in to my identityblog site.  I know Michael and Paul Trevethick (from Social Physics) worked really hard to show skeptics that we throughout the industry are really coming together to make identity work across platforms. 

In another demo, we saw more of Paul's work around an “information broker” – I”ll try to find a detailed writeup somewhere.

And to top it off, we got an eye-opening presentation by Montreal's Louise Guay.  Her My Virtual Model is a must-see. Louise is a real visionary.  Doc was reeling.  For example, she offers us a personal avatar – you set it up with your measurements and characteristics and use it to find outfits with the look you want.  And guess what?  People are actually using it.  And I'm just brushing the surface of her thinking.

Beyond the “cool factor” is the fact that she is turning marketing upside down.  She's fully aware of the relationship between her avatars, the people who use them, and the great identity issues of our age.  These are social artifacts people can share with their friends, but are also respectful of privacy – allowing us to get access to unprecedented personalization without sharing any identifying information.     


A nice post from identity guru Pete Rowley of Red Hat: 

I have been at the Burton Catalyst this week. At the reception I was discussing with Paul Trevithick about how I define user-centric identity. The phrase I use is “the people are in the protocol.” Though I wasn’t expecting it, the next day Paul was on a panel when he was asked what user-centric identity was and he quoted me. Cool, but then the next day another panel was asked about the quote and whether having people in the protocol was just a way of excluding other protocols and groups. Well since I wasn’t on the panel to answer that I thought I would take the opportunity to do so here.

When I say protocol I mean it in its broadest sense, in the sense that showing my driving license to a cop at a traffic stop and the cop returning it to me is a protocol. In that transaction I am in possession of the information, I have full knowledge of what information I would pass along to the cop, and I also have the choice of saying no – even if that might result in bad things happening. So people in the protocol means that rather than being an end node that may begin a transaction and perhaps be the recipient of the end results but with only vague or even no information about the information passed in the transaction, they are rather a conduit for all identity decisions in an environment of informed consent. This necessarily means that the protocol must pass through the user, or in other words appear on the screen and be approved by the user. That is an architectural philosophy that results from Kim Cameron’s laws of identity and it is a necessary one in order to gain user buy in. It is also just the right thing to do.

It turns out that it really isn’t hard to architect identity systems to include freedom and choice, but it might not be what one would create if the issue were never considered. It is also not too difficult to re-architect to take account of the philosophy – some work has already begun in SAML for example. Putting people in the protocol is the first step towards providing a scaleable identity framework that takes account of the requirements of the important part – the person. The first step towards treating the users of identity systems with respect.