Yet another on identity

St 08 srpna 2012

I am not sure I have written it somewhere here, but I have been persuaded that identity is the most important and yet unresolvable issue circling around Internet since at least 1997 (don’t bother to read the paper, it is pretty poorly written and I didn’t have courage to state my conclusions clearly). The paper was about legal aspects of EDI (if you know what it is, then you are probably in 0. 00001 % of population), but during the research I found that whole idea of Internet-wide EDI is basically dead not because of technological challenges (they are real, but probably solvable), but because of lack of universal government-backed legally binding identity system, and such system will be never be introduced, while electorate of some countries opposes any attempt to introduce any system of IDs. Of course, I don’t want to say that USA is the only country opposing identity documents, that they don’t have good reasons for their rejection of IDs, or that REAL ID Act wasn’t horribly mangled (in the post-9/11 era I wouldn’t expect anything else). Just that without well-functioning IDs we will never experience full potential what Internet can bring to us.

This experience is probably the reason why I was always skeptical to all attempts to create Internet based identity systems (mainly OpenID), and why I stay skeptical when I read this post by Tim Bray. There are problems which are not technological, but political/social, and such problems cannot be resolved by improvements in technology, although most programmers never believe it and will try to develop new and new technology to solve it. I don’t believe Google will ever introduce any system of Internet-wide identity which they would be willing to accept even from other identity providers. Of course, Google (and Facebook, Twitter, and others) will pretend that OAuth is such system, because it allows innocent third party website to give up all their most valuable data to them. But until I will be able to login to GMail with my identity from Yahoo/Facebook, I won’t believe that Google will be a honest member of the identity community. Many people on that webpage (me included) asked Tim about BrowserID. I am afraid that’s one things he is not allowed to talk about. When Facebook/Google/Yahoo/AOL/Microsoft killed by turning their blind eye OpenID, I don’t see any reasons why we should expect any other attitude towards BrowserID. Which doesn’t mean that BrowserID is doomed, but that we should expect it to be just limited tool for independent openweb loving parties.

Category: computer Tagged: identity OwnCloud privacy

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