More on the British Identity Card

For those, like me, interested in what happens with the British Identity Card debate, here is a piece from the Guardian which gives some more insight into what is going on. If anyone thought this scheme wouldn't turn political, here is a recent press release from Privacy International – which sounds like it means business:

The watchdog civil liberties organisation Privacy International today accused the UK Shadow Cabinet of perpetrating “an offence against democracy of historic proportions” by agreeing to vote with the government on the controversial Identity Cards Bill.

Privacy International’s Director, Simon Davies, warned: “The Tories have taken one their biggest political gambles for many years. If public opinion turns against the ID scheme as dramatically as it did in Australia they will inevitably fall to third place in the forthcoming elections”.

Privacy International has for fifteen years been the key opponent of identity card schemes, and has been instrumental in overturning card proposals in several countries.

The Tories now stand alone in their support of the government’s proposals. The Liberal Democrats, the UK Independence Party, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and others political parties have declared their opposition to the scheme.

“The Tory Cabinet decision will result in a fatal split in the party,” Mr Davies predicted. “The decision will cause a crucial divide between the authoritarians and the libertarians. The liberal minded members with conscience will ultimately oppose the decision.”

Mr Davies, who is also Chairman of the non-partisan NO2ID coalition, and who directed the huge 1987 campaign against the Australian national identity card, predicted that public outrage would fill the political void created by the ill-judged decision of the Opposition.

“If this debate cannot be engaged in the Parliament, it will take place on the streets”, he warned.

Privacy International’s background and analysis of the scheme is here.

And then there's my day job

Someone in the Wild West Gillmore Gaggle – the dust was thick but I'm pretty sure it was Bryan Field-Elliot – suggested I might just be “teasing” folks by releasing the Laws slowly rather than in one big conflagration. He intimated I might even know where I am going with this.

And so I guess I have to admit that I've been working on these ideas for a… er… while now. But I wanted to give my authorators (Doc's new word for the blog readers and writers and casters who author us) a chance to deal with them in detail – and help me figure out how to communicate the things that have been pounding away inside my head. And to see what I am missing, both in terms of explanation and at a more profound level. Finally, there is the fact that I have this darn day job that consumes a fair bit of my time…

But I can accept that enough is enough. So I promise. The remaining two laws this week.

More Gillmor Links

British Identity Card

I've been meaning to point people to a couple of other Gillmor Gang interviews.

First, there is the recent discussion with Ray Ozzie – founder of Lotus Notes. If you know him you'll want to hear this. If you don't, check it out for sure – Ray is so clear, perceptive and thoughtful. He is his own analyst.

He says Notes was built on the concept that the nature of the organization was changing. Previously it had been vertically oriented. When Notes came out, organizations were becoming more internally meshed. People within organizations were suddenly collaborating with each other. Today – in the era of Groove – businesses are becoming externally meshed. Individuals are dealing with people from lots of organizations – not to mention friends and family. Software moving forward has to be based on this evolving mesh.


  • The key here is that going forward, IT departments will not be able to simply dictate the software which individuals use – because the software must span companies, each of which will have different IT departments.
  • Building things based on ubiquitous standards (COM, J2EE) doesn't take into account the amazing speed at which things slip into history – we always need to look forward 5 years.
  • When looking forward, watch the underlying phenomena – the explosion of wireless options; being able to assume that everyone has a PC and access to the net; and terrabyte desktop storage – which has arrived before we even have any idea of what it can be used for…

He also comments sagely on the complexity of current identity-based systems, and wonders what he missed by underestimating the power of anonymous technology. I couldn't agree more – that complexity must go or we all fail.

For those who missed it, the Gang has also interviewed Phil Windley – who does a great survey of identity management issues. I'm not sure I agree with him on the relation between Metadirectory and other technologies, but I'll try to find out more about his thinking and then drill into this.

Scott C. Lemon on the Third Law

I just came across this – shows how swamped I was in December. What a fascinating post. I know my “fascination” must appear simply narcissitic to someone just popping their head in to the discussion. But Scott thought through so many issues when he was working on Digital Me (and since). It is significant that in the light of such a different set of experiences he comes to many of the same conclusions.

I agree completely with Kim's Third Law.

The Fewest Parties Law of Identity

Technical identity systems MUST be designed so the disclosure of identifying information is limited to parties having a necessary and justifiable place in a given identity relationship.

This is, IMHO, the same thing that caused the failure of Novell's digitalMe project … after it was taken over by others in the company. It's funny how some people at Novell really thought that Novell was somehow going to become the de facto source of identity information in the world.

I kept hearing these funny internal pitches about “billion user directories” … and silly me I just kept thinking “I would rather sell hundreds of millions of personal directories, then a couple of ‘billion user’ directories!” How many “billion user” communities are there on earth?

I think of a different theory on why these grand schemes fail. Kim touches on this also. If you try to build the “one big thing in the sky”, and there is a second group of people that don't like you or trust you, then they'll build their own version. Which means there will be two. If there are two, then there will be three or more … and then things start to go in all directions. It's funny to see this even occurring in the Open Source world. People have disagreements and fork a project … and then it get's forked again. I'm not saying this is bad at all … it's the natural progression. So build to embrace this!

The original digitalMe team was after building community platforms, and then providing methods to federate … however much of what we were pursuing was “client-side federation” … allowing the user to be the federation point, since they exist at the intersection of all of the communities that they belong to. We figured that we would allow anyone to create a community … and allow people to choose the communities that they wanted to belong to, and which ones they would trust.

Part of the reason that I strongly believe in the Third Law is that this is how the “philosophical” views fall also. When I participate in an identity transaction, I can choose to limit the parties involved if I trust the other party or if the information being exchanged is not too valuable. On the other hand, I might have to bring in a third or fourth party if we both want to feel secure about who the other party is, or I want to authenticate the identity information being exchanged.

In the end … I like Kim's thoughts …

Dave Kearns on Fifth Law

Dave Kearns’ take on the Fifth Law

In other words, to be successful an identity system must be ubiquitous, pervasive, federated and distributed. This, once again, calls to mind the personal identity system which I've advocated for so long. Perhaps it's time to push more forcefully for a conference or meeting which could explore this topic more fully.

Craig Burton on the Fifth Law

Craig Burton was another presence in the Special Wild West Edition of Gillmor Gaggle. In fact, for those who don't know him, the podcast is a good opportunity to hear some of his haunting, incredibly dense and on-target comments. He also weighed in on the Fifth law with some eerie thinking:

Kim Cameron posts his fifth law of identity this evening. It's a tall order:

The Law of Pluralism:

A universal identity system MUST channel and enable the interworking of multiple identity technologies run by multiple identity providers.

It is this which will allow an identity ecology to emerge, evolve and self-organize.

Dave Winer's RSS is so powerful because it vehicles any content. We need to see that identity itself will have several – perhaps many – contents, and yet these can be expressed in a metasystem.

The law of pluralism is contrary to the laws of customer control. Let's be clear, the law of pluralism requires operating system independence–by definition. This means the Microsoft Identity Archtiect is calling for a system that is not necissarily Windows centric by design. This–of course–is the only way such a system can really work–but consider the implications.

A cross platfrom identity metasystem sun-spot hot and–with the other laws being discussed here–changes everything.

Politics versus technology

Marc Canter, the Guru of Multimedia who really gets the importance of identity (and always gets the last word) dedicated his very last word of last year to the issue of identity (of course he had been present at the Special Wild West Conflagration of the Gillmor Gaggle). I won't butt in:

It was painfully obvious during the recording of today's Gillmor gang that creating a meta-identity standard will be 2% technology and 98% politics.

It's already 2005 around most of the world by the time I post this – so but as usual (as Steve Gillmor says) “I get the last word in.”

So I just wanna say to Dave Winer, Kim Cameron, Craig Burton, Phil Windley, Drumkmond Reed – Papa Doc Searls and Mr. Steve “Dan's his brother” Gillmor – that we CAN do this.

We can put Microsoft's past behind them – and use them to help us build the mega meta momma backplane we talked about.

I really like Kim and he seems sincere and we can't blame him for his employer's past transgressions. Just like we can't blame Scoble either. Neither of them worked at Micreosoft during “those days” – but they work there now – and it's incumbant upon us to work with them – to help them change – from within.

As I said yesterday I'd like to nominate Dick Hardt and his Sxip Networks technology to lead this effort forward. Sxip can be a ‘mini-backplane’ of sorts – that can then plug into Kim's mega meta momma backplane he's talking about. I really think it's possible that 2005 can be the year that this all comes together.

By meeting the requirements of the 7 Laws of Identity (can't wait to hear the final two – Kim) and by balancing the needs of a centralized DNS with the pluralism that is required for uptake – we can help bring the era of ‘Social Computing’ to fruition (thanks Kim for that one…..)

Sxip Networks was designed for the type of KISS developers need to support digital identity that can become pervasive. Sxip is beholden to nobody but us. And I am not neholden to Sxip. I recieve no money from Dick and company. I just dig the shit out of what they're doing.

So it's a Ho Ho Ho and a three cheers mate (sorry Simon you didn't make it) and here's to a brand new year – and a brand new round of efforts at singing (in tune) “Kum Bah Yah” – my lord.

By the way, for those who haven't experienced it yet, Marc really can sing.

Special Wild West Edition

Doc Searls is grooving ever more deeply on identity, carrying the torch and getting people to start thinking about a technology that is “just in its infancy”. And he's got the Gillmor Gang going nuts on all of this.

Not only that, but he presented me with a “coolest comment” in his response to my previous post. For me it's like an Oscar – well, maybe an Emmy. I'd like to thank my father and my mother. Maybe one day I'll have a star carved in his blog roll…

And how could I not forever love a guy who says, “Meta Man is back, big-time!” The Doc knows what's up, and does he ever know how to say it.

“The Fifth Law of Identity sends me clamoring for the first four…

“There was a very important coming together at DIDW of Kim, Phil Windley, Craig Burton, Eric Norlin, Marc Canter, Drummond Reed, Bryan Field-Elliot, Andre Durand, Jamie Lewis, Kaliya Hamlin, Dick Hardt, Owen Davis, Simon Grice, various Identity Commons and i-names folk, and many more people I insult (as I said a couple days ago) by not running in the credits. While all those folks and their projects are important, Kim's participation in the conversation is extremely encouraging to me — and not just because (brace yourselves and park your prejudices) he works for Microsoft.

Let's face it. Doc was instrumental in making all that happen – through the session he animated on bottoms-up identity, which actually included a lunch moderated by the Doctor himself and enough side-meetings that we all became friends.

So yes. On this New Year's Day, I do believe we have a chance to “park our prejudices” and learn how to communicate with each other so as to solve this identity problem.

The latest step on that road was the New Year's Eve (almost) Special Wild West Edition of The Gillmor Gang – which Doug Kaye renamed the Gillmor Gaggle because of the number of identity experts assembled in one virtual place. Steve Gillmor describes it this way,

It begins as a Kumbaya of identity vendors and technologies, but by the second half the gloves come off. Craig points out that everyone has built silos so far because there have been no alternatives. Is the idea of a Microsoft silo “old fashioned thinking,” as Kim suggests, defending the company he joined not all that long ago? He then presents the first five of his seven Laws of Identity — clearly well thought out and vendor independent as all agree. Everyone also agrees that no identity solution can succeed without the cooperation and participation of Microsoft, but Dave is skeptical given the company's history in identity management. Phil points out that PKI hasn't succeded, and Kim suggests it's because PKI violated his 4th Law of Identity. And Doc suggests that digital identity needs a ‘key personality’ in the same way as Dave has played a lead role in RSS and blogging. Make sure you listen to this one all the way through.

One of the more bizarre and silly moments comes when I interpret Dave Winer's phrase “Nobody took them on” as meaning “nobody took them (Microsoft) to task” whereas he clearly meant, “nobody bought into the technology”. We go on to talk right past each other even though we basically agree. Funny in retrospect – and we'll get there, really we will.

There are lots of exciting moments and fascinating points made in the discussion – far out, Gillmor people.