Back to you, William

William Heath of Ideal Government has been thinking and talking with colleagues in the United Kingdom about what we have called the Law of Control:

Technical identity systems MUST only reveal information identifying a user with the user's consent.

He writes:

Kim's laws (as well as Liberty Alliance and the state-of-the-art identity debate) take shape in a crucible of US-based entrpreneurial creativity. This is principally and primarily business and consumer focussed. Just like every other aspect of IT it needs a bit of a stretch and a rethink when we come to apply it to public services.

Imagine we get arrested (for a crime of conscience, eg deliberate trespass on a foreign military base). We don't control the process as our identity details are taken by the police and passed to court to prison to probation services. Yet we may accept collectively that institutions within a democratically elected government have the right to do this to one of us. In this sense “collective consent” (or just “consent”) might be a closer expression of what we mean than “control”. So I'm not entirely comfortable with it being called the law of control.

I'm aware of the inevitable limitations of our perspective, although I confess to having many friends and collaborators in the public service. My limitations make me deeply interested in the perspectives of people like William, so I look forward to reaching a mutual understanding on these issues.

William is discussing the relations between the individual and the institutions of democracy, which operate just as he describes, and owe their endurance to deep collective consent.

I'm not sure what this has to do with the Law of Control, which discusses the relation between the computer user and her technical identity system.

Let's leave the name aside for a moment, and concentrate on the content of the law itself.

Would those in the public services rather have it read, “Technical identity systems MUST only reveal information identifying a user with the user's consent – or that of the state”? And if not this formulation, what would they like to see expressed?

I think one way to look at it is to say that the individual controls her identity system – even if under certain circumstances the state may control the individual.

But I am open to the idea that there is more to it than this, and am waiting to hear what William has in mind.

Published by

Kim Cameron

Work on identity.