Footprints in the silicon

[Dave Birch] I like the phrase “digital footprints” as I think it provides as useful metaphor and image. Your digital identities leave digital footprints behind and other people — perhaps people you don’t know — can follow those footprints. That’s a reasonably powerful picture to put in front of people. I was trying to come up with something like this because I was thinking about how to educate people to be aware of the new way of the world. Children, in particular, need to understand the ramifications of their new media use (not to stop them from using it, but to help them to use it more effectively). For example…

When these kids are in high school and college, will a prerequisite for dating my teenage daughter be reading my blog?

[From Digital Footprints: Raising Kids Online – Media Bullseye]

Probably. It would certainly be way for a prospective daughter-in-law to score points with me! There’s nothing wrong in helping children to lead lives online, but we must obviously do what we can to protect them and encourage responsible usage (which I think a digital identity infrastructure would do, but it’s not the only way of doing it). Who are we protecting them from, other than future in-laws? We all understand the risks, even if they are somewhat overplayed in the media and not understood at all by politicians. As I said before

so it turns out that by and large perverts don’t use social networking sites while pretending to be teenagers, but nonetheless something must be done, and who better to decide what to do than politicians.

[From Digital Identity Forum: Hard cases]

But your digital footprint isn’t only of interest to criminals and peverts, but also marketers. In other words, hiding your digital footprint away (or not creating one) isn’t a solution because allowing the right people to see your digital footprint at the right time means better products and services. In fact, if marketing could be on the basis of your digital footprint rather than a random collection of facts about you together with suppositions about group behaviour, that might be rather a good thing.

This is the future of marketing intelligence. Its no longer demographics. Identity is not worth collecting. Lets safely secure that with our customers, promise them we won’t mine their identity. But the digital footprint, that is valuable. And the social context – Like Alan Moore says, this is the Black Gold of the 21st Century, the biggest prize. We can only discover social context accurately via the mobile phone, but the companies that build upon this dimension, those companies will seem like “reading our minds” in how accurately, cannily, they will serve ever better services and products and offers and campaigns for us.

[From Communities Dominate Brands: Datamining our identity, digital footprint, and social context]

We need a way to manage the connections between other people, our footprints and our selves.

Mobile focus

[Dave Birch] At NFC conferences these days (I’ve just got back from NFC World Asia) there tends to be a focus on using the NFC-equipped mobile phone for payments of one form or another, but I am convinced that identity management should be getting just as much attention. The idea that you could leave home with only your phone and no wallet depends on the phone replacing all of things in your wallet, not just a couple of cards.

The point was made that to focus only on speed of transaction though was to miss the areas of convenience, security and the concept that people will leave home without their wallet but not without their phone. I think the latter point is a stretch to think that “mobile commerce will be driven by people without their wallets” – after all they still need their driver’s license to commute in their cars and office badge to get into many buildings. This is cash replacement and not a card or wallet replacement strategy.

[From Glenbrook Partners: Report from CTIA – Mobile Payments Eventually]

Absolutely. But that’s not to say that a wallet replacement strategy is not plausible, if we use the mobile phone as the platform for digital identity infrastructure as well as digital money infrastructure.


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