Andre Durand

Discovering life, one mistake at a time.
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The Dream (Nightmare) of A Secure Identity

February 07, 2003 By: Andre Category: Ping Identity

A-Clue.Com – by Dana Blankenhorn, Volume VII, No. VI
For February 10, 2003


My chiropractor has a problem. His partner in renting an office in Midtown Atlanta skipped town over the holidays. When he got back two rent bills were waiting for him, and half the office was trashed.


He was philosophical. The other fellow’s approach clashed with his. (My doc likes high-tech toys – a James Bond Chiropractic Center.) The other guy didn’t keep things clean enough. Maybe this was an opportunity to bring in some junior partners and really grow. “Or I’ll take anyone, a lawyer, even a writer,” he said, hopefully.


The point is that the man’s partner ankled away, and my chiropractor accepted it. This happens all the time in America. Identity is plastic, mutable, elective. You can start over as someone else, somewhere else. Fathers abandon children, abused mothers leave their husbands. Our ancestors did it (willing or un-) when they came here. Or when they went West. Or, as in this case, when times just got tough.


The ideal of “starting over,” however, clashes with a new technology imperative, a secure digital identity. The benefits are manifold. Payments are simplified, fraud is reduced, and if you’re an honest fellow (like me) the police won’t hassle you unduly, on the road or when getting on an airplane.


But the dream of digital identity runs into twin political realities. The Bush War on Terrorism treats everyone as a potential threat. Neither Democrats nor libertarian Republicans care for that. Then there’s that “start over” impulse. A truly secure identity would make that impossible. You can say “we’ll find the deadbeat dad” but the abused wife answers “he’ll be able to find me.”


So we have phony arguments, even red herrings, created to avoid admitting our fears directly. The technology isn’t good enough. Terrorists can pass bio-metric tests. If thieves break your identity they’ll take everything from you. The Republican Guard can use it to suppress all dissent. It all comes down to the same thing, really – we don’t trust, we want the potential “out.” So we putter along with things like photos on car licenses (which aren’t supposed to be the dreaded “papers” of Gestapo fantasy but act as such) or signatures on checks (very easy to fake). Identity theft keeps rising, and every time I go to the doctor (or the chiropractor) it seems they’ve changed computer systems and I HAVE TO FILL OUT ANOTHER BLOODY PAPER FORM (and with my handwriting).


The latest seminal paper on the subject, by Andre Durand seeks to divide the question of identity into three parts:



* Personal (My) Identity, who you are. This is what we most fear seeing compromised.


* Corporate (Our) Identity, either given by an employer (in the form of a
badge) or by the people we do business with (as an entry in a database). These are the identities that exist most today, identities given to us by the government (a Social Security Number) or someone we do business with (a credit card or frequent flyer number). These identities, for the most part, can be revoked, either by the company or by us. (The “Social” is an exception, which is what makes it both powerful and dangerous.)


* Marketing (Their) Identity, the dreaded “profile” based on what we buy and where we go. This is what companies have, and what they most often treat as property. You might also call this the “Customer Relationship Management” (CRM) identity. We got baby food flyers as soon as we had our kids, and we’re expecting a flood of ‘come to our college’ mail soon, based on this kind of identity.


The “Big Fear” of the Poindexter TIA plan is that all these identities might be combined and instantly revoked should someone accidentally (or on purpose) put out a “November 2015

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