Identity Traps

Ideally, a person ought to have an identity that is completely under that person’s control. That is, a self-sovereign personal identity. This isn’t a new idea I’ve invented, but it is one that everyone ought to understand better. It is surprisingly deep and subtle. An excellent summary of identity and control began with Kim Cameron’s The Laws of Identity; there’s no need to repeat them here.

There’s a problem with identity that permeates the human-facing systems built using the Internet. The Internet is a communications protocol for machines, not for people, and our basic construction of the Internet doesn’t address people (as subjects or participants in communications) at all. AFAIK, there is no IETF RFC that addresses the participation of individual people in the Internet. This has always seemed strange to me, since my computing education started as a participant in MIT’s Project MAC, an acronym that has many interpretations, but the dominant one is “Man And Computer” [with the gender-free interpretation of the word man]. In the late 1960’s it was obvious to me and my peers that we were working towards a symbiosis of persons and machines. Some other time I may write more about the fracturing of this goal, because I keep experiencing that many in the field and in the world have trouble comprehending that persons ought to be part of computing, both in computer science and engineering in the same way that processors, displays, packets, code, etc. are parts.

The World Wide Web