Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Please show me your identity

In today's newsletter I alluded to a language problem in an IBM press release, intending to delve deeper in the next issue. I'm not going to be able to do that but still wanted to point out the egregious error, so I'll do that here. In talking about IBM's partnership with multi-factor, strong authentication partners (Arcot, Gemalto, and L-1 Identity Solutions ), the release states:
"Billions of identities used in business and social networking environments – ranging from passwords, employee badges, driver’s licenses and stronger forms of authentication – are used each day to complete various types of transactions both on-line and in-person, granting individuals a wide range of physical and digital access privileges."

Passwords, employee badges, and driver’s licenses aren't identities! They're credentials. They're offered as proofs of identity claims, but that's all. Calling them identities is like calling a key a "lock." In fact, they are usually offered, in a digital context, as authentication to an account (not an identity) since one identity (you) can have multiple accounts using one or more credentials, and one account can be accessed by multiple people (or, identities) just as one key can open multiple locks, and one lock can be opened by multiple keys.

If those of us "inside" can't get the terms right, how can we ever expect the end-users to do so?


Spot on, Dave!
I also still find the occassion to correct the experts on similar matters. You may recall the Identity Dictionary you encouraged me to publish a few years back:
Keep up the good work.
Allan Milgate
Post a Comment

© 2003-2006 The Virtual Quill, All Rights Reserved


[Powered by Blogger]