World's leading identity politician

When it comes to dealing with identity, Australia has already “been there, done that.”  In 1987 there was a massive public revolt against a proposed national ID card that imprinted several of the Laws of Identity on the psyche of the nation.

None the less, the country faces the same challenges around health care and social benefits as every other: the need to streamline benefits processing, reduce fraud, and improve information flow where it is vital to the health and safety of individual citizens.

Over the last few years this had led a whole cohort of Australians to think extensively about how identity, privacy and efficiency can all be served through new paradigms and new technology. 

On its second try, Australia went in a fundamentally different direction than it did with its 1987 proposal (reminiscent of others that have hit the wall of public opinion recently in other countries).  This time, Australia started out right – bringing privacy advocates into the center of the process from day one. 

The cabinet minister responsible for all of this has been Joe Hockey, who seems to have a no-nonsense approach based on putting users in control and minimizing disclosure.

Finally!  Our first glimpse of a government initiative that is, at least in its inception, fully cognisant of the Laws of Identity.  Beyond this, instead of swimming with dull proposals based on Berlin-wall technology,  Australia is leading the way by benefiting from new inventions like smartcards with advanced processors and web services that can together put information ownership in the hands (and wallets) of the individuals concerned.

Here's the story from The West Australian

Police, State governments and banks will not be able to demand access to the new $1.1 billion smartcards under new laws aimed at stopping them becoming de facto national identity cards.

Responding to a report to be released today by Access Card task force chairman Allan Fels, Human Services Minister Joe Hockey will announce changes to ensure individual cardholders have legal ownership over them.

In a speech to be delivered to the National Press Club today he says most government and bank-issued cards remain the property of the issuer but in what may be a world first, the new laws will ensure the cards cannot be demanded for ID purposes.

Professor Fels foreshadowed the legislation in June when he warned consumers needed to be given as much control over the card as possible, and that the Government faced major security concerns if it did not protect cardholders from having to produce the card as identification.

Mr Hockey says the legislation will be introduced next year.

The Government will be able to turn off access to health and welfare benefits if the owner of the card is no longer entitled to them.

The high-tech cards, to be rolled out across Australia from 2008, will replace 17 health and social services cards, including the Medicare card, healthcare cards and veterans’ cards.

They will include a digital photo and name but not the holder’s address and date of birth, and the microchip will store certain health information and emergency contact details.

The Government says it will not be compulsory, but has admitted it will be hard to avoid because it will be required for all government services.

Nearly every Australian will need to carry a smartcard by 2010.

In his speech, Mr Hockey will argue that Australia has been a “complacent comfort zone” when it comes to aspects of card technology and security.

“Many other countries, particularly in Europe, replaced the magnetic strip with a microchip long ago,” he says.

He denies the scheme will result in one giant data base.

“Your information will stay where it presently is, the agency relevant to that information, the agency you deal with,” he says.

The Government hopes the scheme will wipe out $3 billion in welfare fraud a year.

Shadow human services minister Kelvin Thomson said the Government had engaged in precious little public debate about the card.

“Concerns include the threat to privacy from surveillance by corporations and governments, as well as the financial plausibility of a Government-run $1.1 billion IT project,” he said.

“In the United Kingdom, the Blair Government has been forced to put their proposed smartcard on hold due to overwhelming public opposition.”

If Joe Hockey's proposal is as enlightened as it appears to be, I hope every technologist will help explain that our current systems are far from being ideal.  We mustn't get too hung up on simply preventing deterioration of privacy through absurdist proposals, because the current bar is already too low for safety. 

We need to follow Australia in being proactive about strengthening the fabric of privacy while achieving the goals of business and government.

Virtual gardens with real-world walls

Here is a fascinating piece from OZYMANDIAS that oozes with grist for the User Centric mill.  This seems to be about walled gardens with barbed wire.  Please don't take what I'm saying as being critical of Sony in order to puff some other company (like, er, my own).  I'm talking about the general problem of identity in the gaming world, and the miserable experience much of the current technology gives us.  I think I should be able to represent my gaming personas as Information Cards – just as I would represent other aspects of my identity – and use them across games (and one day, even platforms) – without linkage to my molecular identity. 

News on the web today is that Xfire is suing GameSpy for how their GameSpy Comrade “Buddy Sync” feature creates friends lists. To quote:

Now Battlefield 2142 is caught up in a legal tangle between rival in-game instant messaging programs Xfire and GameSpy Comrade. On October 16, Viacom-owned Xfire filed suit against News Corp subsidiary IGN Entertainment over its GameSpy Comrade program, which comes on the Battlefield 2142 disc. IGN Entertainment also owns, a GameSpot competitor.   

Xfire is claiming that GameSpy Comrade's “Buddy Sync” feature illegally infringes on its copyrights. Buddy Sync retrieves users’ friends lists from other instant messaging programs like AOL Instant Messenger and Xfire, and gives players the option of automatically inviting those friends who have GameSpy accounts to join the users’ friends lists on Comrade.

If you read a bit deeper you find that what's basically being challenged is GameSpy's use of information (friends lists) that has been publicly published by Xfire on their website. Xfire claims that GameSpy's reading of that data is to enable GameSpy to bolster their own friends lists:

In a filing in support of the restraining order, Xfire CEO Michael Cassidy specified how his company believes the Comrade program works. First, Cassidy said it reads the user's Xfire handle from the XfireUser.ini file, then visits a formulaic URL on the Xfire site to get a list of the user's friends (for instance, to find the friends list of Xfire user Aragorn, Comrade would go to The names on that friends list are then compared with a central IGN database of Comrade users’ Xfire handles, and if any matches turn up, the user is asked if they want to invite those people to their Comrade buddy lists.

I am not a lawyer, and can't definitively comment on whether information that's made public in this fashion can or cannot be harvested. My gut is that it's probably kosher – we have plenty of website scraping applications in the wild today that do just this, including best price searching sites. What does fascinate me is how this suit highlights how busted Sony's PS3 online network is, and how companies are fighting to position themselves to take advantage of this financially. Bet that seemed to come out of right field. Wink But here's where I'm coming from.

I wrote earlier about why Sony's enabling of Xfire for PS3 games wasn't as exciting as it might seem. Take a read, and then let's talk about just what the experience of being an online user on PS3 is likely to be like.

So I buy my PS3, bring it home, and go online. The first thing I'm going to be asked to do is create some sort of Sony Network ID. That “Sony ID” will apparently bring basic presence and communication features via the crossbar interface. So far so good. Now I decide to play Insomniac's Resistance, which recently stated the following:

Insomniac's Ted Price: “The buddy list is specific to Resistance. And we decided not to bother people in-game with messages. If you have a new message sent to you while you're in a game, you'll see your “buddy list” tab flashing when you re-enter the lobby after playing a game. The buddy list tab is where you can access your friends, ignore list, messages, etc.”  

1Up (to reader): “Does this mean there's a system-wide friend's list, but you have to compile game-specific friends lists for each online game you participate in? That doesn't make much sense, and hopefully today's event will clear up the situation.”

Yes Virginia, that's exactly what this means. Even though I already have a “Sony ID”, I may have to create a new “Resistance ID” to play. And then start thinking about just how broken the experience is when you try to invite someone to a game. Do you send it via the Resistance UI? What screenname do I send it to? If I want to add you to my “Sony ID” friends list, do I need to send you an in-game message to ask you what your real “Sony ID” name is? What about game invites? How does that work across even just these two IDs?

You think that's bad? Now let's open up a few more games from different publishers. Each of these publishers had to make a choice of what online interface to use – again, because Sony's online network just isn't ready. So they'll choose between writing their own (as did Insomniac for Resistance), or perhaps licensing Xfire, or GameSpy, or Quazal, or Demonware. So now we have five potential networks with different namespaces, and an inherent  lack of ability to communicate (chatting, voice, invites, finding friends, etc.) between them, and even across to just the “Sony ID” namespace. Think we're done? Nope… what happens if each publisher doesn't stick with the same online solution for all of their games? This is very likely as most publishers use different developers – so even across a single publisher, you may find fragmented communities.

The only consistent tie all of these different community fragments has is that a user should always have their Sony ID. That gives you a lifeline to be see friends when they are online… but only in the crossbar UI. Will you even be able to see what game they're playing? What about what network that game uses, and whether that friend is logged into it? How will you get messages in a timely manner? Remember Ted Price's quote above? “And we decided not to bother people in-game with messages. If you have a new message sent to you while you're in a game, you'll see your “buddy list” tab flashing when you re-enter the lobby after playing a game.” Doesn't sound like a user-centric design decision to me.

So… back to Xfire and GameSpy. I said earlier this suit is a direct result of how busted Sony's online network appears to be, and I just described some of the issues you'll likely be facing later this month. Yes, it's targeted at a PC title right now (Battlefield 2142), but that's just noise. What we're really seeing with this suit are online middleware companies trying to position themselves to become the eventual defacto solution that publishers will use. Just as with web search and instant messaging, these companies are trying to get momentum and user base that will cause them to be the “PS3 online” solution of choice. And this suit is simply one of many battles we'll see in this space, especially as PC and console crossplatform connectivity becomes more important in the coming years.

When my role as a player is really valued, I will be seen as owning my own buddy list.  Using zero knowledge technology, it will be possible for me to hook up with any of my buddies’ personas – across various games and without committing sins of privacy.


Podleaders Interview for those new to the Laws

Tom Raftery at interviewed me recently for his PodLeaders show (42 mins 15 secs).  Here is his description of what we talked about:

My guest on the show this week is Kim Cameron. Kim is Microsoft’s Identity Chief and as such is responsible for developing CardSpace – Microsoft’s successor to the much reviled Passport. Kim elucidated the Seven Laws of Identity and is developing CardSpace to conform to those laws. If he manages this, he will have changed fundamentally how Microsoft deals with people.

Kim is also responsible for Microsoft recently releasing 35 pieces of IP and promising to never charge for them.

Here are the questions I asked Kim and the times I asked them:

Kim, I introduced you as Microsoft’s Identity Chief, what is your official title in Microsoft? – 0:35

What does the Chief Architect of Identity do in Microsoft? – 01:02

Why is it necessary to have identity products in software? – 01:29

How do I know who I am dealing with on the internet? How is that problem being solved? – 03:56

And you as Microsoft’s Identity Architect are coming up with a way to resolve this called CardSpace… – 07:08

You were saying CardSpace is to be platform independent, I run a Mac, will it run on the Mac? – 15:26

You mentioned a couple of companies, are the offerings from these companies going to interoperate or are we going to have another version of the VHS/BetaMax wars? – 17:45

Audience questions
Rob Burke

Perhaps more than any of the other Vista-era technologies, in order to really catch on, CardSpace requires broad cross-platform adoption. Kim personally is doing a lot to showcase the use of CardSpace’s open standards. What does the broader effort to engage with other platforms and communities look like, and how is CardSpace being received? – 21:10

CardSpace uses an intuitive wallet-and-credit-card metaphor. One of the features of a wallet is that it’s portable – I several pieces of identity with me at all times. I tend to move between computers a lot. What provisions are there in CardSpace for helping me keep mobile (in a secure way)? – 25:07

What happens if your laptop containing your InfoCards gets lost and/or stolen? – 28:00

Dennis Howlett

What’s cooking on the identity managemnt front at MSFT? We’ve been hearing about this on and off for a while – we need progress if we’re not to be weighed down byt having to remember so many usernames and passwords for the servics we consume. – 30:35

My questions again:

Will there be a lot of re-engineering of web apps required to roll out these technologies? – 34:03

And finally you mentioned that this is the first version what can we expect in the next versions and when will they be released? – 39:58

Download the entire interview here
(19.3mb mp3)
Let me make one thing clear about Microsoft's Open Specification Promise: many people were involved, and Microsoft's legal people, along with their colleagues representing open source thinkers aned companies, deserve all the credit. 

Check out the other interviews on the site (I think I'm number 48).  Doug Kaye was number 47, and there are lots of good things to listen to while on the treadmill (physical or metaphorical).


Information Cards supported on Community Server

Armand du Plessis at Impersonation Falure writes about his work to add Information Card support to his Community Server:

A couple of days ago I enabled experimental Windows Cardspace support on I mentioned that I'll post the source code and controls but with Tech-Ed Africa and some other work I never got around to posting it.

So now the updated Community Server files is available here and the source code for both the Community Server controls and the underlying ASP.NET controls available here.

To enable Community Server to make use of Information Cards for authentication the following steps are required :

  • Install and configure your site with a SSL certificate. (Make sure it's a certificate issued by a Certification Authority trusted by popular browsers so you don't make the same mistake as me. See this post for more info)
  • Grant access to the certificate's private key to your application pool user. Easiest method to do this is using the winhttpcertcfg.exe utility.
    • winhttpcertcfg -g -c CertLocation -s SubjectStr -a Account
  • Add your certificate's thumbprint to your web.config appSettings section so the Token processor helper class can find it :
    • The thumbprint can be obtained through the MMC Certificates snap-in.
  • Unzip the updated Community Server files over the CS web files. The following files will be replaced so make sure you've backed them up before this step :
    • \Themes\default\Masters\master.ascx
    • \Themes\default\Skins\Skin-EditProfile.ascx
    • \login.aspx

How it works is relatively straigth forward, kudos to the design of the Cardspace web integration and the Community Server SDK. A quick explanation :

The source consists of four core controls :

  1. Adp.CardSpace.InformationCardRequest – A very basic ASP.NET control that takes care of rendering the < object > element used to engage the Identity Selector with the desired claims the Relying Party wants from the Identity Provider. This can either be placed in the head of the page when working together with the InformationCardSubmit control, or as a standalone in a form body.
  2. Adp.CardSpace.InformationCardSubmit   Another basic ASP.NET control that renders the required script and a button that can be used to engage the Identity Card Selector. It is meant for consumption by higer-level controls that can subscribe to it's OnTokenReady event which is fired when a postback triggered by the ICS happens.
  3. Adp.CommunityServer.Controls.Association – A Community Server control used in the profile section to allow a user to associate an Information Card with his/her account.
  4. Adp.CommunityServer.Controls.CardSpaceLogin – A Community Server control used to authenticate the user using his Information Card instead of the usual username/password.

The claim requirements is expressed through the Claims property on the Adp.Cardspace.InformationCardRequest control. This can be done programmatically or declaratively and the control added either to the page head or to a form body. Adding the control to the page head as done in the Community Server integration allows for fine grained control over when the Identity Selector is invoked without interfering with other form submit buttons on your page.

Below is an extract from master.ascx which embeds a request for two claims, email and PPID, into the page. (By default self-issued cards are accepted but this can be configured through the Issuer property on the control) 

< CS:Head runat="Server">
< meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />
< CS:Style id="UserStyle" runat="server" visible = "true" />
< CS:Style id="s2" runat="server" visible = "true" Href="../style/Common.css" />
< CS:Style  runat="server" Href="../style/common_print.css" media="print" />
< CS:Script id="s" runat="server"  />
< ADP:InformationCardRequest ID="_xmlToken" runat="server" Claims-Capacity="4">
< ADP:ClaimDto ClaimType="" Required="true" />
< ADP:ClaimDto ClaimType="" Required="true" />

 Where the Identity Selector trigger is required the Adp.Cardspace.InformationCardSubmit control is placed. The sole responsibilty of this control is to invoke the Identity Selector and raise an OnTokenReady event which can be consumed by other interested parties. Below is an extract from the Skin-CardspaceLogin.ascx (a Community Server control which uses the InformationCardSubmit control to obtain the encrypted token)

< ADP:InformationCardSubmit CssClass = "CommonTextButtonBig" runat="server" id="csSubmit" />

 That's all that's required to invoke the ICS. To decrypt and extract the token using the very useful TokenProcessor from the Microsoft samples the following code is required to hookup and handle the OnTokenReady event. (This code is in the above mentioned CardSpaceLogin control, a composite control utilizing the InformationCardSubmit control and other default Community Server Controls) 

protected override void  AttachChildControls()
submit = FindControl("csSubmit") as InformationCardSubmit;
message = FindControl("csMessage") as StatusMessage;
submit.OnTokenReady += new EventHandler(submit_OnTokenReady);

if ((submit == null) || (message == null))
throw new CSException(CSExceptionType.SkinNotSet);

The Token helper class takes care of decrypting and extracting all the tokens from the postback. (The token helper class is available in the samples on

After breaking out the tokens we can access them through the indexed Claims property. All the claims we expressed in the InformationCardRequest control above is available for use in your code.  In the sample below the token's unique id is extracted and assigned to an extended profile attribute in Community Server.

void submit_OnTokenReady(object sender, TokenEventArgs e)
try {
Token token = new Token(e.TokenValue);

if(context.User.Email !=
token.Claims[System.IdentityModel.Claims.ClaimTypes.Email]) {

CSUtil.CsResourceFilename), false);

catch (Exception e1) {
string displayMessage = ResourceManager.GetString("Association_GenericException",
CSException e2 = new CSException(CSExceptionType.UnknownError,
displayMessage, e1);

DisplayMessage(displayMessage, false);

Some limitations in this implementation is that it currently don't detect whether or not the browser supports Infocards. Also triggering the Identity Selector through script currently don't seem to be supported by the Firefox Identity Selector plug-in.

Currently the implementation on still suffers from the use of the Starfield SSL certificate which requires users to first import the Intermediate Certificate as a trusted issuer before Cardspace will accept it. This will be rectified soon.


Privacy and Identity – IGF workshop outcomes

From the Internet Governance Forum, via Ralf Bendrath's blog

The workshop on privacy and identity we held together with the LSE information systems group this morning sparked an interesting discussion.

Christian Möller gave some examples of how privacy is not only important in itself, but how it also is a necessary condition for freedom of expression.

Microsoft’ Jerry Fishenden presented their InfoCards concept and the “7 Laws of Identity” as one approach on how to handle user data based on different credentials. While most of the panelists agreed that this is a good basis for a start, and especially welcomed the company's recent efforts to make it more privay-friendly, Jan Schallaböck and Mary Rundle pointed at one major drawback: Once you have sent your personal information to a company – no matter if through InfoCards or another system – you can not control what happens with it afterwards.

Jan, who is with the data protection authority of the German land of Schleswig-Holstein, therefore presented the ideas, concepts and systems developed in the EU-funded Privacy and Identity Management in Europe (PRIME) project as an alternative.

Their model is that user data given to web service providers will have “sticky privacy policy” attached to it in the form of meta-data. This meta-data will move with the personal data and can help ensure that it is only used or tranferred in a way the user has agreed to.

Mary from NetDialogue suggested (having) a similar way as the Creative Commons license: Privacy Policies should be human readable, lawyer readable, and machine readable. The advantages would be that the users can better decide how they “licence” the use of their data to other parties. Mary even presented a very nice series of icons that symbolize different use policies.  This approach might be one way to address the failure or “myth of user empowerment”, as Ives Poullet called it.

Stephanie Perrin, research director at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, finished by saying that the privacy community has to become much more involved in international technical standardization processes. As always, time was too short. Therefore, we will discuss a collaborative follow-up process later this evening.

Actually, the “sticky privacy policy” notion can be implemented by identity providers using version 1 of Cardspace – it doesn't limit the token types that can be exchanged.  A new type of token that includes metadata about use policy is a good example of why this flexibility is useful.  I support the idea.

Maybe Jan Schallaböck and Mary Rundle are aware of this, but are talking about the self-issued identity provider used to “bootstrap” Cardspace.  In v1.0, it does not have this kind of metadata built in to it. 

I look forward to collaborating with Mary and Jan to create the kinds of visual and metadata systems now being discussed.  I don't actually see PRIME as being “alternative” in any way to the work I've been doing – we have the same goals.


Feedback from Urs Gasser at Berkman

Here's some feedback on Rubinstein and Daemen's new Metasystem Privacy paper posted by Urs Gasser on his Law and Information blog.  Urs is an expert in cyber law associated with the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School.

Microsoft released a white paper entitled “The Identity Metasystem: Towards a Privacy-Compliant Solution to the Challenges of Digital Identity.” The excellent paper, authored by Microsoft’s Internet Policy Council Ira Rubinstein and Tom Daemen, senior attorney with Microsoft, and posted on Kim Cameron’s blog, is a must-read for everyone interested in user-centric ID management systems. (Disclosure: As you can take from the acknowledgments, I have commented on a draft version of the paper, based on my earlier observations on “Identity 2.0”-like initiatives.)

Among my main concerns – check here for other problem areas – has been Microsoft’s claim that the i-card model is “by design” in compliance with the unambiguous and informed consent requirement as set forth, for instance, by EU data protection law. I’ve argued that the “hardwired”-argument (obviously a variation on the theme “regulation by code”) might be sound if one focuses on a particular relationship between one user and one identify provider and/or one relying party – as the white paper does. However, at the aggregated level, the i-card model’s complexity – i.e. the network of informational relationships between one user and multiple ID providers and relying parties – increases dramatically. If we were serious about the informed consent requirement, so my argument goes, one would wish that the user could anticipate not only the consequences of consent vis-à-vis one ID provider, but would understand he interplay among all the components of the ID-system. Even in less complex informational environments, experience has shown that the making available of various privacy policies can’t be the answer to this problem – as the white paper seems to acknowledge.

In this regard, I particularly sympathize with the white paper’s footnote 23. It might indeed be a starting point for an answer to what we might call the “transparency challenge” to create “a system enabling web sites to represent privacy policies in a simple, iconic fashion analogous to food labels. This would allow consumers to see at a glance how a site’s practices compared to those of other Web sites using a small number of universally accepted visual icons that were both secure against spoofing and verified by a trusted third party.” (p. 19, FN 23.) Such a system could become particularly effective if the icons – machine-readable analogous to creative commons labels – would be integrated in search results and monitored by “Neighborhood campaigns” similar, for instance, to

Although Microsoft’s paper leaves some important issues unadressed, it seems plain to me that it takes the discussion on identity and privacy protections as code and policy an important step further – in a sensible and practical manner.

I agree with Urs when he talks about where we can go with visual icons representing the practices and policies of sites and identity providers.  Let's do it.

Just to be clear, I see Information Card technology as providing a platform for people to control their digital identity.  As a platform, it leaves people the freedom to put things of their choice onto that platform.

Let's make an analogy with some other technology – say plasma screens.  The technologists can produce a screen with fantastic resolution, but people can still use it to view blurry, distorted signals if they want to.  But once people see the crsytal clarity of high definition, they move away from the inferior uses.  Even so, there still might be artifacts that are important historically that they want to watch in spite of their resolution.

In the same way, people can use the Information Card technology to host identity providers with different characteristics.  It's a platform.  And my belief is that a high fidelity and transparent identity platform will lead to uses that respect our rights.  If this requires help from legislators and the policy community, that's just part of the process.  In other words, I don't think CardSpace is the magic bullet that solves all privacy problems.  But it is an important step forward to have a platform finally allowing them to be solved.

Once you let one party send information to another party, there is no way to prevent it – technically – from sending a correlating identifier.  As a morbid example, terrorists have been known to communicate by depositing and withdrawing money from bank accounts.  The changes in the account are linked to a codebook.  So any given information field can be used to communicate unrelated information.  

What you can do is prevent the platform itself from creating correlation handles or doing things without a user's knowledge.  You can use policy, legal frameworks and market forces so providers and consumers of identity are transparent about what they are doing. You can create technology that can help discover and prove breaches of transparency.  You can facilitate holding third parties to their promises.  And you can put in place social and legal protections of technology users, along the lines of the privacy-embedded laws of identity.

That's why I see the contributions of legal and policy experts as being just as fundamental as the contribution of technologists in solving identity problems.  In in the long term, the social issues may well be more important than the technical ones.  But the success of the technology is what will make it possible for people to understand and discuss those issues.

I advise following some of the thoughtful links to which Urs refers.


Proposed Eighth Law of Identity

Here is a compelling multi-media proposal by the legal department of Ontario's Privacy Commissioner for an Eighth Law of Identity:

Illustration of the eighth law of identity

Download full-size deposition here.

The “technology” version of the law appears on the left, and the policy-oriented version on the right.

Today's Internet is a Gourd's Paradise. It is only through user-centric pumpkin-to-machine authentication that we will be able to leverage the true weight of the gourd.

Today's Internet is a Gourd's Paradise. It is only through user-centric pumpkin-to-machine authentication that we will be able to leverage the true weight of the gourd. The synergistic combination of omnidirectional identifiers and correlation handles on a per-vegetable basis could be the sustainable architecture behind the meta-zucchini infrastructure.

Any metasystem needs to realize that pumpkins may vary in physical appearance, but their basic architecture is the same: stem, seeds and pulp represent the core of our constituent squash identity system.

We hope our commentary will stimulate oral interfacing across the vegosphere and among the “gourderati”.

That all lawyers could be so gainfully employed!

From little brother to the naked corporation

When I was at the International Association of Privacy Professionals conference recently I was able to hear the multiply visionary Don Tapscott speak about where technology is going, and its relationship with business and society.  He is an extraordinary speaker, with a staggering breadth.  He seems to effortlessly integrate the disparate colliding tendencies and phenomena shaping our future.  If you don't know of him, I'll turn to the Wikipedia, itself a manifestation of forces that form the subject of his latest book:

Mr. Tapscott has authored or co-authored eleven widely read books on the application of technology in business. His new book, co-authored with Anthony Williams is [WIKINOMICS: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything] (Portfolio, December 2006).

His penultimate book, co-authored with David Ticoll, is THE NAKED CORPORATION: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business (Free Press, October 2003). The Naked Corporation describes how corporate transparency, accountability, and stakeholder relationships are the new frontier for competitive innovation.

He has also co-authored, DIGITAL CAPITAL: Harnessing the Power of Business Webs. This best seller describes how business webs are replacing the traditional model of the firm and changing the dynamics of wealth creation and competition.

There are many other important books – including “Paradigm Shift”…

But at the conference, Don spoke right after Anne Cavourkian, with whom, ten years ago, he had written, “Who knows?  Safeguarding your privacy in a networked world.”  With visionary chagrin, he joked that while he still thought it was a good book, the timing couldn't have been worse.  There it is in a nutshell: the visionary's dilemma.

Don went on to say:

In the book we argued that big brother's always been a problem.   But. because of the growing proliferation of networked computers, and databases connected to them, there's an emerging problem, called little brother.

In the old days, information was kept in filing cabinets, and filing cabinets don't communicate with each other very well.

But when information becomes bits, flying around through networks of sand and air, information starts to communicate, and as we go through life, as this becomes the basis for work, learning and entertainment and healthcare and human discourse, we leave a trail of digital crumbs, and these crumbs are being collected, on this vast network of networks, into a sort of virtual you, a mirror image of yourself, and your virtual you may know more about you than you do in some areas, because you can't remember, say, what movie you watched fourteen months ago.

The little brother problem is key to the work I've been doing on this blog.  And Don, who had been told about the Laws of Identity by Dr. Cavourkian, was kind enough to give me permission to post his full speech.  The mp3 version is here.  (Update:  changed from wma).

Grandstanding to drive up his ratings?

When Doc Searls was first telling me about blogging, he asked if I wanted to see something incredible.  Then he typed the word “doc” into a certain search engine, and the first or second result was the address of his blog. 

I was amazed.  He was right up there.  On a level with the Department of Communications.  He still is today (try it!)

So a while ago, I decided to check out the results for “Kim”.  Narcissistic? I guess.  And worse, the kind of thing that irreversibly links your identity to the audit trail of your searches. 

But I was curious.

Let's face it.  As I've said before, this blog is the “hair on the end of the long tail.”  It was obvious I wouldn't be in the same league as Doc. And we all know the entire country of Korea has the name ‘Kim’.  One search engine lists 227 million references.  So my hopes weren't high.

But despite all this, the results were pretty amazing: 


Better search engine


Was it possible?  I beat out Kim Jong-il, president of North Korea, who came in at number 8.  In fact I easily passed him at 5!  I could see he's maybe not the most popular person in the world, but still, he does run a country, a country much discussed in some circles.  Anyway, I decided to check out a competing engine:


Canadian version of well known search engine

Not quite as good, maybe, but hey, Rudyard Kipling and Kim Basinger are certainly both more fundamentally accessible than identityblog (!), so it seems right.

Anyway, over time I came to take this state of affairs pretty much for granted.

But last week, visiting Canada, a friend asked me what would happen if he just searched for ‘Kim’, so I told him to try it.  He went to, and to my horror I could see that I had slipped

American version of well known search engine

Suddenly the reality of the situation sank in.  Was the underground nuclear test that Kim Jong-il set off just grandstanding intended to increase his search engine ranking?  

Had Kim Basinger and I actually been in grave danger all along for thwarting a dictator's desire to appear at the top of a result set? 

The poor helpless souls in some CNN documentary flashed before my eyes, and I acepted that losing out to Jong-il wasn't all bad.

And then the kicker.  I VPNed to a computer back in the States, so I could get to the US versions of the search engines (on my friend's ISP it was impossible to get to the actual “.com” site rather than “.ca”).

Guess what? Back in the States it was business as usual.  Kim Basinger and I were still up ahead of Jong-il, despite all of his antics.  My friend and I had been looking at a rating that was somehow Canada specific.

I guess that for search engine experts all of this would come as no surprise.  But I am pretty curious about how these international variations in ranking come about.


Second Law of Identity

Here is the Second Law of Identity as expressed by Anne Cavoukian, Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. The “technology” law is on the left; the “privacy-embedded” form is on the right:


The identity metasystem must disclose the least identifying information possible, as this is the most stable, long-term solution. 


The identity metasystem must disclose the least identifying information possible, as this is the most stable long-term solution. It is also the most privacy protective solution.     

The concept of placing limitations on the collection, use and disclosure of personal information is at the heart of privacy protection. To achieve these objectives, one must first specify the purpose of the collection and then limit one's use of the information to that purpose,avoiding disclosure for secondary uses. The concept of data minimization bears directly on these issues, namely, minimizing the collection of personal information in the first instance, thus avoiding the possibility of subsequent misuse through unauthorized secondary uses.


Dr. Cavoukian's restatement of the First Law is here.  I can't overstate the importance of her collaboration with the identity community.  Nothing is more important to getting identity right than getting privacy right.  And there's no better way to get privacy right than by working side by side with those who, like Dr. Cavourkian, have been studing, writing about and protecting privacy for many years.

Download the Privacy-Embedded laws as a brochure or a whitepaper.