Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Yet more on anonymity

Kim Cameron responds to my postings on anonymity with another in the long line of "Contoso parables", story-like metaphors, similes and illustrations of the point he's trying to make. This one is similar to another we've disagreed about, which also was used to illustrate supposedly non-unique identities. This time, Kim relates:
"Suppose some company - let'’s call it Contoso.com - runs Active Directory as its local identity infrastructure. Active Directory identifies all of the machines and people in Contoso?'s 'domain' with a Security IDentifier (SID) - basically a unique id/domain pair. But when I am dealing with someone from Contoso.com, I probably don?'t give a darn about their SID, no matter how useful it may be to their local AD system. Dave, do you care about my SID? Knowing you and loving you, I think you've got better things to worry about!"

He goes on to state: "if I call 411, I speak with a representative of the phone company. I don't know her or his name, or number, or location, or anything else. I just know the person I'm talking with works on behalf of Verizon - and that is all I really want to know." But is it? Suppose the person gives you exemplary service or, unfortunately, very poor service? Would you say that all Verizon employees are great/good/bad/indifferent? Or would you want to know which employee it was?

But you don't need to, yourself, know which employee it was!

You could call Verizon to give either a compliment or complaint and identify the particular employee as the one who was speaking to you at a particular time and on a particular day! The employee is not anonymous, but their identification is kept private - it is not (at the time of the call) revealed to you. It's just another instance of confusing privacy with anonymity.

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