Based on your experience, what are the critical issues in understanding the very nature of identity in a society actively building bridges between the real and digital world? How can we share more, connect with others, and protect our privacy at the same time?
That is the great question of our time for privacy professionals, isn’t it? And the whole explosion of social media has thrust the issue of ‘identity’ into the spotlight for us to deal with, and it has come upon us with very little advance notice to allow us time for proper preparation.
From what I’ve seen, there exists in both the online and offline worlds a dichotomy between proper authentication of an individual – that is, the individual is who they say they are – and the contrary position of oversharing of information by individuals so that we know too much about them, to some detriment. Obviously, fraud and identity theft is the result of improper authentication of a person to whom services are provided (i.e. too little information).
Embarrassing revelations to both individuals and corporations are the result of too much transparency. The problem of authentication is essentially the function of requiring too little information to validate the credentials of the person asserting their identity. At some point, institutions will have to realize that there should be no comfortable level of acceptable losses and raise the bar on proof of ‘who you are is who you say you are.’ Right now, for example, you can walk into any big box store and open an instant credit account with only a driver’s license as proof of identity. It would be one thing if driver’s licenses were difficult to reproduce, but most of know it’s as easy as creating a business card these days.
On the other side of the fence, is the critical issue of too much openness and ability to share one’s life with little notion as to the consequences. I think ultimately we will have to create some kind of firewall between the real life you live and have, and the online version of that presence – some kind of official, vetted and legally binding avatar. Many people need and should have that defensive layer between the two for many reasons: lack of prudence, lack of sophistication, inability to self-censor, etc.
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