Flatwood, ironware and cheap tin trays (and definitely not ivory and apes and peacocks)

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Identity fraud isn’t only about people. It’s also about things. And there are some pretty big things out there (e.g., oil tankers) that are lying about their identity.

Private money and privacy money

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The relationship between payments and anonymity (which we can label “cash” for short) is far more complicated than it appears. If you ask people whether they want anonymity in payments, they are very likely to say yes, but that’s because they haven’t really thought about it.

We can contribute to childhood e-safety

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We can use identity and authentication (ie “recognition”) technologies to improve Internet safety, if we use them correctly.

It is good to wander out of the comfort zone from time to time and expose your ideas to more acid tests. Hence I went along to the seminar on “Childhood and the Internet – Safety, Education and Regulation” in London in January. I was there for three main reasons:

  1. I am interested in the evolution of identification and authentication in an online environment, and protecting children is one of the cases that brings the mass market practicalities into sharp relief.
  2. We have clients who are developing recognition services, and it seems to me that if these services can contribute to a safer environment for children then we may have something of a win-win for encouraging adoption.
  3. Protecting children is an emotional topic, and as responsible member of society it concerns me that emotional responses may not be society’s best responses. This is a difficult subject. If, as technologists, we make any comment about initiatives to protect children being pointless or even counterproductive we may be accused of being sympathetic to criminals and perverts hence we need to learn to engage effectively. I’m not interest in childhood e-safety theatre, but childhood e-safety.

The seminar was kicked-off by Simon Milner, the Policy Director (UK and Ireland) for Facebook. He started off by noting that Facebook has a “real” names policy. Given my fascination with the topic, I found his comments were quite interesting as they were made on the same day that the head of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was interviewed in Business Week saying that the “real” names policy was being amended.

One thing about some of the new apps that will come as a shock to anyone familiar with Facebook: Users will be able to log in anonymously.

[From Facebook Turns 10: The Mark Zuckerberg Interview – Businessweek]

Simon went on to say that the “real” names policy, setting to one side whether it means anything or not, is a good thing (he didn’t really explain why and I didn’t get a chance to ask) and then talked about how children who are being bullied on Facebook can report the problem and so on. I know nothing about this topic, other than as a parent, so I can’t comment on how effective or otherwise these measures might be. To be honest, there were several talks that I’m not qualified to comment on so I won’t, other than to say I found some of the talks by the subject matter experts extremely thought-provoking and I’m glad I heard them.

The main discussion that I was interested in was led by Helen Goodman MP (the Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport) and Claire Perry MP, who is the Prime Minister’s special advisor on preventing the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood. The ex-McKinsey Ms. Perry attracted a certain amount of fame in web circles last year (just search on “#PornoPerry”) when she made some public statements that seemed to indicate that she didn’t completely understand how the internet worked, despite being behind the government’s “porn filter”. (I am not picking on her. I should explain for foreign readers that most MPs are lawyers, management consultants, property developers, PR flacks and such like and they don’t really understand how anything actually works, least of all the interweb tubes. Only one out of the 635 MPs in the British Parliament is scientist.)

Now, let me be completely honest and point out that I have previously criticised not only the “real” names movement in general but Ms. Goodman’s views on anonymity in particular. I think she is wrong to demand “real” names. However, as I said a couple of years ago,

I’m not for one moment suggesting that Ms. Goodman’s concerns are not wholly real and heart felt. I’m sure they are.

[From The battle of the internet security experts – Tomorrow’s Transactions]

This does not make her right about what to do though. Forcing people to interact online using their mundane identity is a bad idea on so many levels.

But that was the same month that the Communist party struck its first major blow against Weibo, requiring users to register their real names with the service. From that point, those wishing to criticise the Party had to do so without the comforting blanket of anonymity and users started to rein themselves in.

[From China kills off discussion on Weibo after internet crackdown – Telegraph]

I’m not suggesting that Ms. Perry represents a government intent on creating a totalitarian corporatist state that reduces us wage-slaves to the level of serfs to be monitored at all times. I’m sure her good intentions are to block only those communications that challenge basic human decency and serve to undermine the foundations of our society, such as MTV, but the end of public online space seems a drastic step. What has been the result of the Chinese campaign to end anonymity? What is the practical impact of a real names policy?

Once an incalculably important public space for news and opinion – a fast-flowing river of information that censors struggled to contain – it has arguably now been reduced to a wasteland of celebrity endorsements, government propaganda and corporate jingles.

[From China kills off discussion on Weibo after internet crackdown – Telegraph]

None of us, I’m sure, would like to see pillars of our society such as the Daily Mail reduced to the level of “celebrity endorsements, government propaganda and corporate jingles”. Perhaps there is now less crime in China too, but I have yet to discover any statistics that would prove that. I don’t want this to happen to Twitter, Facebook and The Telegraph web site (where it is my right as Englishman to post abuse about the Chancellor of the Exchequer should I so choose). So here is a practical and positive suggestion. At the seminar Helen said the “The gap between real-world identity and online identity is at the root of [the problem of cyberbullying]”. So let’s close that gap. Not by requiring (and policing) “real” names, but by implementing pseudonymity correctly. I wrote an extended piece on this for Total Payments magazine recently.

Now imagine that I get a death threat from an authenticated account. I report the abuse. Twitter can (automatically) tell the police who authenticated the transaction (i.e., Barclays). The police can then obtain a warrant and ask Barclays who I am. Barclays will tell them my name and address and where I last used my debit card. If it was, say, Vodafone who had authenticated me rather than Barclays, then Vodafone could even tell the police where I am (or at least, where my phone is).

[From Dave Birch’s Guest Post: Anonymity – privilege or right? – Total Payments : Total Payments]

As I said, I don’t just want to talk about doing something about cyberbullying and the like, I actually want to do something about it. “Real” names are a soundbite, not a solution. What we need is a working identity infrastructure that allows for strongly-authenticated pseudonyms so that bullies can be blocked and revealed but public space can remain open for discussion and debate. Then you can default Facebook and Twitter and whatever to block unauthenticated pseudonyms without insisting the kid looking for help on coming out, the woman looking at double-glazing options or the dreary middle-aged businessman railing against suicidal economic policies from revealing their identities unless they want to

What do they want us to do?

What do the politicians, regulators, police and the rest of them want us (technologists) to do about the interweb tubes? It might be easier to work out what to do if we had a clear set of requirements from them. Then, when confronted with a problem such as, for example, identity theft, we could build systems to make things better. In that particular case, things are currently getting worse.

Mr Bowron told the MPs this week that although recovery rates were relatively low, the police detection rate was 80 per cent. However, the number of cases is rising sharply with nearly 2m people affected by identity fraud every year.

[From FT.com / UK / Politics & policy – MP calls cybercrime Moriarty v PC Plod]

So, again, to pick on this paricular case, what should be done?

Mr Head also clarified his position on the safety of internet banking, insisting that while traditional face-to-face banking was a better guarantee against fraud, he accepted that society had moved on. “If you take precautions, it’s safe,” he said.

[From FT.com / UK / Politics & policy – MP calls cybercrime Moriarty v PC Plod]

Yet I remember reading in The Daily Telegraph (just googled it: 20th November 2010) there was a story about an eBay fraud perpetrated by fraudsters who set up bank accounts using forged identity documents, so face-to-face FTF does not, as far as I can see, mean any improvement in security at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it is worse than nothing, because people are easier to fool than computers. I would argue that Mr. Head has things exactly wrong here, because we an integrated identity infrastructure should not discriminate between FTF and remote transactions.

I think this sort of thing is actually representative of a much bigger problem around the online world. Here’s another example. Bob Gourley. the former CTO of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, poses a fundamental and important question about the future identity infrastructure.

We must have ways to protect anonymity of good people, but not allow anonymity of bad people. This is going to be much harder to do than it is to say. I believe a structure could be put in place, with massive engineering, where all people are given some means to stay anonymous, but when a certain key is applied, their cloak can be peeled back. Hmmm. Who wants to keep those keys

[From A CTO analysis: Hillary Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom | IT Leadership | TechRepublic.com]

So, just to recap, Hillary says that we need an infrastructure that stops crime but allows free assembly. I have no idea how to square that circle, except to say that prevention and detection of crime ought to be feasible even with anonymity, which is the most obvious and basic way to protect free speech, free assembly and whistleblowers: it means doing more police work, naturally, but it can be done. By comparison, “knee jerk” reactions, attempting to force the physical world’s limited and simplistic identity model into cyberspace, will certainly have unintended consequences.

Facebook’s real-name-only approach is non-negotiable – despite claims that it puts political activists at risk, one of its senior policy execs said this morning.

[From Facebook’s position on real names not negotiable for dissidents • The Register]

I’ve had a Facebook account for quite a while, and it’s not in my “real” name. My friends know that John Q. Doe is me, so we’re linked and can happily communicate, but no-one else does. Which suits me fine. If my real name is actually Dave bin Laden, Hammer of the Infidel, but I register as John Smith, how on Earth are Facebook supposed to know whether “John Smith” is a “real” name or not? Ludicrous, and just another example of how broken the whole identity realm actually is.

For Facebook to actually check the real names, and then to accept the liabilities that will inevitably result, would be expensive and pointless even if it could be achieved. A much better solution is for Facebook to help to the construction and adoption of a proper digital identity infrastructure (such as USTIC, for example) and then use it.

The implementation of NSTIC could force some companies, like Facebook, to change the way it does business.

[From Wave of the Future: Trusted Identities In Cyberspace]

That’s true, but it’s a good thing, and it’s good for Facebook as well as for other businesses and society as a whole. So, for example, I might use a persistent pseudonymous identity given to me by a mobile operator, say Vodafone UK. If I use that identity to obtain a Facebook identity, that’s fine by Facebook: they have a certificate from Vodafone UK to say that I’m a UK citizen or whatever. I use the Vodafone example advisedly, because it seems to me that mobile operators would be the natural providers of these kinds of credentials, having both the mechanism to interact FTF (shops) and remotely, as well as access to the SIM for key storage and authentication. Authentication is part of the story too.

But perhaps the US government’s four convenient “levels of assurance” (LOAs), which tie strong authentication to strong identity proofing, don’t apply to every use case under the sun. On the recent teleconference where I discussed these findings, we ended up looking at the example of World of Warcraft, which offers strong authentication but had to back off strong proofing.

[From Identity Assurance Means Never Having To Say “Who Are You, Again?” | Forrester Blogs]

Eve is, naturally, absolutely right to highlight this. There is no need for Facebook to know who I really am if I can prove that Vodafone know who I am (and, importantly, that I’m over 13, although they may not be for much longer given Mr. Zuckerberg’s recent comments on age limits).

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

News from the bunker

The government is battening down the hatches and repelling all boarders, even if they have e-tickets. And not before time!

Foreign intelligence agencies are carrying out sustained cyberattacks on the UK Treasury, targeting it with malicious emails and programs designed to steal information, the Chancellor, George Osborne, has revealed. He said that government systems are the target of up to 20,000 malicious emails every month

[From Osborne: Treasury under sustained cyberattack | Technology | guardian.co.uk]

And that’s not counting the ones from taxpayers, I imagine. Setting aside how ludicrous and meaningless this figure is, there is nonetheless a serious point. If Son-of-Stuxnet crashes the Treasury, that might well be a net benefit to the economy, but if it crashes the electricity distribution network, even I won’t be laughing. We need effective cyberdefences. So what should the authorities do to bolster these defences? I would have thought that have some kind of working identity infrastructure might be a first step, and in that respect things haven’t been going to well in the UK.

The Home Office slipped out the final report of the Independent Scheme Advisory Panel (ISAP) this week, more than a year after it was written. The ostensibly independent report, which reveals how the ID system had been compromised by poor design and management, was submitted to the Home Office in December 2009.

[From Henry Porter – Home Office suppressed embarrassing ID cards report]

The report says that there were no specifications for usage or verification (which we knew – this was one of my constant complaints at the time) and, revealingly, that (in section 3.3) that “it is likely that European travel” will emerge as the key consumer benefit. This, I think, is an interesting comment. As I have pointed, what the Identity & Passport Service (IPS) delivered was, well, a passport. It had no other functionality and, given the heritage, was never going to have. Hence my idea of renaming it “Passport Plus” and selling it to frequent travellers (eg, me) as a convenience, and idea that really should have been taken more seriously by the coalition administration.

As an aside, the report also says (in section 5.5) that the “significant” number of change requests after the contracts had been awarded would likely increase risk, cost and timescale. Again, while this is a predictable comment, it is a reflection on the outdated consultation, specification and procurement processes used. Instead of a flagship government project heralding a new economy, we ended up with the usual fare: incomplete specifications, huge management consultant bills, massive and inflexible supply contracts.

The report repeated the same warnings ISAP had given the Home Office every year since the system blueprint was published in December 2006 by Liam Byrne and Joan Ryan, then Home Office Ministers, and James Hall, then head of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS).

[From Home Office suppressed embarrassing ID cards report – 1/7/2011 – Computer Weekly]

How did it all go do wrong? Liam Byrne was supposed something about IT as he used to work for Accenture, as did the James Hall (Joan Ryan was a sociology teacher who later became famous for claiming more than £170k/annum in expenses). All in all, it was a pretty disastrous period for those of us who think that identity infrastructure is crucial to the future of UK plc, let alone the UK government. This is not to say that, despite all of the evidence (including today’s fascinating FT piece on the UK government’s equally disastrous NHS infrastructure project), that the UK is uniquely hopeless at developing identity infrastructure for the 21st century.

Thai citizens who applied for their first national identity card or who applied to have their ID card renewed, have been issued with a yellow slip instead of the new microchip-embedded “smart” cards. The reason behind the problem is that the Interior Ministry refused to accept the new “smart” cards which were supplied by the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, claiming that they did not meet the prescribed specifications stipulated in the ministerial regulation.

[From Bangkok Post : The silly saga of ‘smart’ cards]

Now, this may seem funny, but I ought to point out in the interests of international balance that there are, right now, in 2011, many people walking around branches of the British government with printed pictures of smart cards hanging around their necks. Yes, that’s right: pictures of smart cards, rather than actual smart cards. I’m afraid our cyberdefences are more a cyber home guard at the moment.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

Mexican standoff

At last year’s conference on The Macroeconomics of Mobile Money held at Columbia University in April 2010, Carol van Cleef (a partner at Paton Boggs LLP in Washington) gave a presentation on the “Opportunities and Dangers of E-Payments”, in which she noted that the Mumbai terrorists used mobile phones and “showed themselves to be part of the mobile phone generation” (as, I imagine, they showed themselves to be part of the mass transit generation and the automatic weapons generation). She notes that the attackers were using their own phones (so the IMEIs could be tracked, making the life of law enforcement easier) and that they had purchased more than 37 SIMs in different names using false identification (so the compulsory SIM registration was shown to be pointless — although some of the SIM card sellers were arrested). She also says that the most critical tool for drug traffickers in Canada is the prepaid phone (I’m sure she’s wrong: I’ll bet it’s either cash or cars).

I remember thinking when I read this at the time that this continued law enforcement focus on the prepaid phone and the prepaid card, both of which are critical tools for financial inclusion, would end up with restrictions on both that would make no difference to criminals but would make life much harder for the financially excluded, because of the strong link between identity and money.

Why do I think that? Well it is just not clear to me that demanding strong proof of identity for prepaid products will help. In Mexico there is a national registry for prepaid phones and all purchasers are recorded and fingerprinted, the operators keep calls logs, texts and voice mail for a year (in a database only accessible with a court order — or by criminals, I’d wager). All prepaid phones not in the registry were supposed to be turned off this month, although a quick round of googling and searching couldn’t tell me whether this is actually happening or not. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, in the context of the Mexican government’s reward scheme for people who call in reports of money laundering:

Good luck to anyone who decides to report in person, or by telephone. SIM registration is mandatory in Mexico, which means that the money launderers will find you before the police do

[From Reputation does not depend on “real” identity]

If we focus on phones, for a moment, is it reasonable to assume that demanding identity in the purchase of phones (prepaid or otherwise) will do anything to reduce crime (or will it simply shift the crime to acquiring identities and actually raise the criminal premium on those identities?).

Eight men and one woman have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud… calling expensive premium-rate numbers owned by the fraudsters that charge up to £10 a minute… O2 had a total of £1.2m stolen through premium phone lines throughout July, with police claiming that a West African gang bought the phones from high street stores using false identities.

[From British police arrest iPhone scam gang | News | TechRadar UK]

Like many similar scams, this isn’t a mobile fraud or a payment fraud or any other kind of fraud: it’s basic identity fraud, yet again. To some extent, therefore, one has to be a tiny bit unsympathetic to O2. Clearly, if they make everyone jump through hoops to get an iPhone then they won’t sell very many of them. On the other hand, allowing people to take out contracts without really proving who they are or (and this is the commercial arrangement that is lacking) providing an identity that is underwritten by someone who will take liability for it being wrong, means accepting risk. Remember, it’s not the mobile operators, handset manufacturers or criminals who pay for the police raids, the court system, the prison time: it’s us, the taxpayer. So the distribution of risks is not aligned with the distribution of liabilities, as is so often the case in the world of identity fraud. This isn’t a UK-only problem. It is very clear that in countries without secure national identity registers (ie, almost all countries), requiring mobile operators to determine the identity of subscribers (contract or prepaid) will solve nothing. This does not, by the way, mean that it is impossible to catch criminals. Far from it.

Deputy District Attorney Mena Guirguis said that after Manunga and her former boyfriend stopped dating in 2008, she took out a pre-paid cell phone in his sister-in-law’s name, and started sending the threatening text messages to her regular cell phone… Her scheme was uncovered when the victims went to the phone store, talked with the salesman and learned that Manunga had bought the pre-paid phone under the sister-in-law’s name, Guirguis said.

They reported that information to a Costa Mesa police detective, but by then a third arrest warrant had been issued for the sister-in-law. During a follow-up investigation, the detective discovered that most of the threatening text messages were sent when the pre-paid cell phone was in close proximity to Manjunga’s home or work.

[From Woman jailed for making threats – to herself | sister, law, manunga – News – The Orange County Register]

What this story shows is that actual police work is helped by the perps using mobile phones, even if you don’t know the identity of the person using the phone, because phones mean tracking and tracing and location. We read today that iPhones keep a complete record of everywhere they’ve been…

Apple iPhone users’ movements are being tracked and stored without their knowledge in a file that could easily be accessed by a snooping employer or jealous spouse, security researchers have found.

[From Apple iPhone tracks users’ location in hidden file – Telegraph]

Surely it would be better to have criminals running around with iPhones, sending money to each other using mobile networks and generally becoming data points in the internet of things than to set rigorous, quite pointless identity barriers to keep them hidden.

Two-faced, at the least

The end of privacy is in sight, isn’t it? After all, we are part of a generation that twitters and updates its path through the world, telling everyone everything. Not because Big Brother demands it, but because we want to. We have, essentially, become one huge distributed Big Brother. We give away everything about ourselves. And I do mean everything.

Mr. Brooks, a 38-year-old consultant for online dating Web sites, seems to be a perfect customer. He publishes his travel schedule on Dopplr. His DNA profile is available on 23andMe. And on Blippy, he makes public everything he spends with his Chase Mastercard, along with his spending at Netflix, iTunes and Amazon.com.

“It’s very important to me to push out my character and hopefully my good reputation as far as possible, and that means being open,” he said, dismissing any privacy concerns by adding, “I simply have nothing to hide.”

[From T.M.I? Not for Sites Focused on Sharing – NYTimes.com]

We’ll come back to the reputation thing later on, but the point I wanted to make is that I think this is dangerous thinking, the rather lazy “nothing to hide” meme. Apart from anything else, how do you know whether you have anything to hide if you don’t know what someone else is looking for?

To Silicon Valley’s deep thinkers, this is all part of one big trend: People are becoming more relaxed about privacy, having come to recognize that publicizing little pieces of information about themselves can result in serendipitous conversations — and little jolts of ego gratification.

[From T.M.I? Not for Sites Focused on Sharing – NYTimes.com]

We haven’t had the Chernobyl yet, so I don’t privilege the views of the “deep thinkers” on this yet. In fact, I share the suspicion that these views are unrepresentative, because they come from such a narrow strata of society.

“No matter how many times a privileged straight white male tech executive tells you privacy is dead, don’t believe it,” she told upwards of 1,000 attendees during the opening address. “It’s not true.”

[From Privacy still matters at SXSW | Tech Blog | FT.com]

So what can we actually do? Well, I think that the fragmentation of identity and the support of multiple personas is one good way to ensure that the privacy that escapes us in the physical world will be inbuilt in the virtual world. Not everyone agrees. If you are a rich white guy living in California, it’s pretty easy to say that multiple identities are wrong, that you have no privacy get over it, that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, and such like. But I disagree. So let’s examine a prosaic example to see where it takes us: not political activists trying to tweet in Iran or Algerian pro-democracy Facebook groups or whatever, but the example we touched on a few weeks ago when discussing comments on newspaper stories: blog comments.

There’s an undeniable problem with people using the sort-of-anonymity of the web, the cyber-equvalent of the urban anonymity that began with the industrial revolution, to post crap, spam, abuse and downright disgusting comments on blog posts. And there is no doubt that people can use that sort-of-anonymity to do stupid, misleading and downright fraudulent things.

Sarah Palin has apparently created a second Facebook account with her Gmail address so that this fake “Lou Sarah” person can praise the other Sarah Palin on Facebook. The Gmail address is available for anyone to see in this leaked manuscript about Sarah Palin, and the Facebook page for “Lou Sarah” — Sarah Palin’s middle name is “Louise” — is just a bunch of praise and “Likes” for the things Sarah Palin likes and writes on her other Sarah Palin Facebook page

[From Sarah Palin Has Secret ‘Lou Sarah’ Facebook Account To Praise Other Sarah Palin Facebook Account]

Now, that’s pretty funny. But does it really matter? if Lou Sarah started posting death threats or child pornography then, yeah, I suppose it would, but I’m pretty sure there are laws about that already. But astrosurfing with Facebook and posting dumb comments on tedious blogs, well, who cares? If Lou Sarah were to develop a reputation for incisive and informed comment, and I found myself looking forward to her views on key issues of the day, would it matter to me that she is an alter-ego. I wonder.

I agree with websites such as LinkedIn and Quora that enforce real names, because there is a strong “reputation” angle to their businesses.

[From Dean Bubley’s Disruptive Wireless: Insistence on a single, real-name identity will kill Facebook – gives telcos a chance for differentiation]

Surely, the point here is that on LinkedIn and Quora (to be honest, I got a bit bored with Quora and don’t go there much now), I want the reputation for work-related skills, knowledge, experience and connections, so I post with my real name. When I’m commenting at my favourite newspaper site, I still want reputation – I want people to read my comments – but I don’t always want them connected either with each other or with the physical me (I learned this lesson after posting in a discussion about credit card interest rates and then getting some unpleasant e-mails from someone ranting on about how interest is against Allah’s law and so on).

My identity should play ZERO part in the arguments being made. Otherwise, it’s just an appeal to authority.

[From The Real “Authenticity Killer” (and an aside about how bad the Yahoo brand has gotten) — Scobleizer]

To be honest, I think I pretty much agree with this. A comment thread on a discussion site about politics or football should be about the ideas, the argument, not “who says”. I seem to remember, from when I used to teach an MBA course on IT Management a long time ago, that one of the first lessons of moving to what was then called computer-mediated communication (CMC) for decision-making was that it led to better results precisely because of this. (I also remember that women would often create male pseudonyms for these online communications because research showed that their ideas were discounted when they posted as women.)

It isn’t just about blog comments. Having a single identity, particularly the Facebook identity, it seems to me, is fraught with risk. It’s not the right solution. It’s almost as if it was built in a different age, where no-one had considered what would happen when the primitive privacy model around Facebook met commercial interests with the power of the web at their disposal.

that’s the approach taken by two provocateurs who launched LovelyFaces.com this week, with profiles — names, locations and photos — scraped from publicly accessible Facebook pages. The site categorizes these unwitting volunteers into personality types, using a facial recognition algorithm, so you can search for someone in your general area who is “easy going,” “smug” or “sly.”

[From ‘Dating’ Site Imports 250,000 Facebook Profiles, Without Permission | Epicenter | Wired.com]

Nothing to hide? None of my Facebook profiles is in my real name. My youngest son has great fun in World of Warcraft and is very attached to his guilds, and so on, but I would never let him do this in his real name. There’s no need for it and every reason to believe that it would make identity problems of one form or another far worse (and, in fact, the WoW rebellion over “real names” was led by the players themselves, not privacy nuts). But you have to hand it to Facebook. They’ve been out there building stuff while people like me have been blogging about identity infrastructure.

Although it’s not apparent to many, Facebook is in the process of transforming itself from the world’s most popular social-media website into a critical part of the Internet’s identity infrastructure

[From Facebook Wants to Supply Your Internet Driver’s License – Technology Review]

Now Facebook may very well be an essential part of the future identity infrastructure, but I hope that people will learn how to use it properly.

George Bronk used snippets of personal information gleaned from the women’s Facebook profiles, such as dates of birth, home addresses, names of pets and mother’s maiden names to then pass the security questions to reset the passwords on their email accounts.

[From garlik – The online identity experts]

I don’t know if we should expect the public, many of who are pretty dim, to take more care over their personal data or if we as responsible professionals, should design an infrastructure that at least makes it difficult for them to do dumb things with their personal data, but I do know that without some efforts and design and vision, it’s only going to get worse for the time being.

“We are now making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible as part of the User Graph object,”

[From The Next Facebook Privacy Scandal: Sharing Phone Numbers, Addresses – Nicholas Jackson – Technology – The Atlantic]

Let’s say, then, for sake of argument, that I want to mitigate the dangers inherent in allowing any one organisation to gather too much data about me so I want to engage online using multiple personas to at least partition the problem of online privacy. Who might provide these multiple identities? In an excellent post on this, Forum friend Dean Bubley aggresively asserts

I also believe that this gives the telcos a chance to fight back against the all-conquering Facebook – if, and only if, they have the courage to stand up for some beliefs, and possibly even push back against political pressure in some cases. They will also need to consider de-coupling identity from network-access services.

[From Dean Bubley’s Disruptive Wireless: Insistence on a single, real-name identity will kill Facebook – gives telcos a chance for differentiation]

The critical architecture here is pseduonymity, and an obvious way to implement it is by using multiple public-private key pairs and then binding them to credentials to form persona that can be selected from the handset, making the mobile phone into an identity remote control, allowing you to select which identity you want to asset on a per transaction basis if so desired. I’m sure Dean is right about the potential. Now, I don’t want to sound the like grumpy old man of Digital Identity, but this is precisely the idea that Stuart Fiske and I put forward to BT Cellnet back in the days of Genie – the idea was the “Genie Passport” to online services. But over the last decade, the idea has never gone anywhere with any of the MNOs that we have worked for. Well, now is the right time to start thinking about this seriously in MNO-land.

But mark my words, we WILL have a selector-based identity layer for the Internet in the future. All Internet devices will have a selector or a selector proxy for digital identity purposes.

[From Aftershocks of an untimely death announcement | IdentitySpace]

The most logical place for this selector is in the handset, managing multiple identities in the UICC, accessible OTA or via NFC. I use case is very appealing: I select ‘Dave Birch’ on my hansdset, tap it to my laptop and there is all of the ‘Dave Birch’ stuff. Change the handset selector to ‘David G.W. Birch’ and then tap the handset to the laptop again and all of the ‘Dave Birch’ stuff is gone and all of the ‘David G.W. Birch’ stuff is there. It’s a very appealing implementation of a general-purpose identity infrastructure and it would a means for MNOs to move to smart pipe services. But is it too late? Perhaps the arrival of non-UICC secure elements (SEs) mean that more agile organisations will move to exploit the identity opportunity.