Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nobody "owns" my identity data

Mary Hodder, Doc Searls and Drummond Reed have all weighed in over the last day or so on the issue of ownership of identity data. Mary originally quibbled (as did I) over the use of the word "ownership" but now writes:

I've decided that it makes more sense for users to:

1. own their data, solely
2. give a non-exclusive license to sites they "partner" with when they put data at those sites.
3. be able to remove the data, to the extent the site can take it out (backup tapes are problematic)
4. part of the non-exclusive license to the sites needs to include that the sites can distribute the data (RSS feeds, etc) about their activities OR the sites need to have a way for the user to specify the lack of distribution of data or metadata, if the user chooses.

I can't agree. Very little identifying data, in fact, do I actually "own" in the sense that I can do what I please with it. I don't, for example, "own" my social security number, my credit card accounts, my mailing address, my wife (that's a co-owned relationship), etc. At best, I might be thought to be able to control the distribution of the identity data within certain very well defined parameters. But in many cases there are also other parties who also control distribution within "certain very well defined parameters" (e.g., the bank can distribute information about my credit card accounts to certain third parties).

"Ownership" is the wrong word, the wrong paradigm, the wrong meme.

Drummond, in his post, talks about Identity Rights Management (IRM), a much more interesting concept which deals with the distribution and use of identity data. Done right, IRM is neutral on the "ownership" issue but deals with the entities who have rights to distribute and use identity data, how those rights can be licensed or assigned and how the licensing can be enforced through the use of Identity Rights Agreements (IRA). Like Reed, I also urge you to dive in to IRM and IRA by subscribing to the new mailing list.


Totally agree, dave. Andre, Phil and I spent six solid *months* coming at "ownership" from every angle back in 2002, and the only *real* way forward is to give up on "ownership" per se and focus on "control."

You do not *strictly speaking* own MOST of your identity data, but you should be able to *control* it.

Ownership is a black hole that will suck the life out of the progress folks are trying to make here.
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