Monday, June 12, 2006

Trust is the Root of...

I have been ruminating about trust quite a bit lately and especially the validation of trust giving rise to the concept of identity and ultimately identity management. Several questions keep running through my head:

Are we presupposed to be untrustworthy as humans, hence the need for Identity Management?
Is Identity Management really just a PC way to say 'Trust validation'?
Why is it different online vs. real world?
Is it really different?

Back in the day (15 years ago when I was first 'online' on a bbs and then Delphi) there was a lot of anonymity on the internet. I could in fact say I was anyone else and virtually be anyone else online. As more people started getting their 9600 baud, 14.4, and 28.8 modems upgraded from the 2600 speed, more people joined the club creating interesting usernames and ultimately personas. I can't help but wonder did these personas give us an outlet like a character in a play allowing us to explore alter egos and behave dishonestly without the thought of getting caught, whether you were hacking into Citibank to trade Russian pistols, or pretending to be a 19 year old blond virgin for your buddies to talk about the next day?

Since there are now a buhjillion usernames out there, have we reached a point where we want to tell people that we need to know who you are and what you do to actually validate what we believe about someone?

This leads me to ponder the second question about the Political Correctness factor in all of this. Why is it so easy for companies to say 'we spy on you and gather more information about you and in essence know more about you than your enire family and rolodex combined', yet people freak out when they hear the NSA is looking at phone records (not listening in on calls, which they probably do too) or there is some other perceived intrusion in our lives, and ultimately our identitities. This is technology people, if you can build it, you can break it. If I want to know something bad enough I will find out. I also think there is an element of control and a huge element in CYA (cover your ass) in the proliferation of the identity management space, especially de-provisioning, but that's a whole other topic for another time.

So why is the perception that online should be any different than real life? Don't you want to know who is at the other end of the phone? Don't you want to know that your fiancee is not someone else on the lamb or in a polygamous cult who wants to see how the other half lives? We all want to know, and control, and cover our asses, and there aren't shiny, slick applications in real life like there are online/on networks.

I guess it's not that different really. We want to know each other so we know where to place our trust. It seems to be in short supply these days...


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