Monday, June 06, 2005

Why Digital Identity Matters

Johannes Ernst (you know, the LID guy) has asked us to consider Why Digital Identity Matters. He lists five "application areas" for digital ID:

Digital Identity as a security tool.
Digital Identity as a compliance enforcement tool.
Digital Identity as a big-government tool.
Digital Identity as a convenience or cost-saving tool.
Digital Identity as a tool to empower the individual and/or groups of individuals.

He claims that the discussion these days centers on the first four to the detriment of number five, yet then points to at least three people carrying on dialogs about the fifth area.

The way I see what he's presenting is that people in many different facets of technology and social organization are seeing digital identity as being useful to their discipline, and adapting it accordingly.

Digital Identity matters for the same reason any identity matters - to enable conversation among rational human beings, but it adds the secondary purpose of conversation between humans and machines as well as among machines in the absence of humans.

Just as our primitive ancestors needed to establish the concept of "identity" so that they could refer to each other (whether present or not) so too do we need digital identity to carry on a conversation in virtual space - whether or not that conversation involves a transaction, an authentication, an audit or what have you. Identity is needed as a reference and can then be use as a tool to empower conversations.

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