The technology can change the economics of identity, but identity itself reduces to how you organize to provide recourse to people within your scope. Sure, we can use escrow systems and smart contracts, but these still require a means to organize and provide adjudication.
All the use cases for digital identity are about enforcement and liability, and there are almost none that anyone would volunteer for. In this sense, identity is necessarily imposed, so all products in the space are necessarily aimed at a customer who is imposing identity on a group. It's why I tell identity companies who ask to find some other problem to solve because holding out for some government to adopt your product as their source of sovereignty is a waste of time. There is one other use case for identity, and yes, it is decentralized and bottom-up, because it is about dividing into secure, self-sovereign affinity groups, and the reasons for doing that are on a very short list of uses. Super fun, but basically a weapon.
The conclusion ("It will be decentralized") doesn't follow from the argument though ("because if it is not fragmented, it is literally just oppression").
It could very well be "just oppression" and keep being that...
Everything from a LinkedIn or Facebook account to your personal artist homepage with your CV on it establishes identity. People obviously disclose identity voluntarily, because identity is the primary means by which strangers establish trust.
If your identity is not transparent to me, I won't enter a relationship with you that requries me to know who you are, which in practice is almost every one. I don't see how non-fragmented identity is oppression. It can be for sure, but the primary reason why identity is important in our interactions is because it establishes trust and reputation. I've always considered "non-imposed" identity a sort of oxymoron for that reason, because if full control of identity is left to the individual, identity essentially loses its primary purpose.
That is, one can have a range of identities, from entirely transparent to stably pseudonymous to fleetingly anonymous.
The important nuance though is that the 'range of identities' can be tied together on the user's side if done properly. I can have all my auth methods, accounts, personas, data, etc. tied together with a properly designed decentralized identity system, and choose which to use when depending on the context. This is the real promise of decentralized identity -- a connective tissue around the users rather than platforms.
There are two things about this that don't require centralized identity.
The first is that it's very commonly not true at all. If you want to sign up for an account for an online service (e.g. email, YouTube, gaming), they don't need the name on your driver's license for anything. They don't need to know anything about you. You create an account, set up authentication to prove you're the account holder in the future, and that's it. The identity you use can be created along with the account; it doesn't have to exist beforehand or be associated with anything else.
Second, even where reputation is important, you still don't need a single identity, it's just that an identity without any history would be untrusted.
Suppose you go to the bank to take out a loan. If you tell them your name is Barrin92 and you have no financial history, they're not going to give you one unless you get some more trusted party to cosign it or you post enough collateral that they can be assured to recover their principal if you default.
But then you start off with a small loan with a large amount of collateral, or a cosigner, and build a credit history as "Barrin92" with financial institutions. Now you can get a bigger loan, or one without a cosigner or as much collateral. Until you default. Then "Barrin92" would no longer be creditworthy and you'd be back to square one.
This works fine even if you have a thousand separate identities, because identities with no credit or bad credit aren't trusted and good credit is valuable so that you lose something significant (the creditworthiness of that identity) if you default.
People having multiple identities is effectively just equivalent to the ability to declare bankruptcy. It doesn't really break any good important thing and it does break some important mechanisms of oppression that we should want to break.
And those who can't get shunted down into the "Payday Loan" tier of finance and they have to dig themselves back out with the equivalent of deposit-backed credit cards.
But few people will choose a deposit-backed card when they have the option of trading identity for better pricing / convenience. If the online ad industry has taught us anything it is that mainstream consumers will trade their data for even the smallest of considerations.
Even if decentralized financial identity would be an improvement (and it is not clear that it would be), a vision with no practical incentive to get there from here is just the basis for another startup destined for whatever is the spiritual successor to f*ckedcompany.com.
The normal recourse is foreclosure of the asset (e.g. house) that the loan was made to purchase, which they don't need your name to do at all, only a way to identify the property they're taking as collateral.
> And those who can't get shunted down into the "Payday Loan" tier of finance and they have to dig themselves back out with the equivalent of deposit-backed credit cards.
That's where everybody starts anyway. You make a hundred bucks mowing lawns in high school or whatever and get a credit card like that. By the time you have the down payment for a house you have a credit history to go with it. Or you start out getting cosigned with your parents' credit history.
> But few people will choose a deposit-backed card when they have the option of trading identity for better pricing / convenience.
You're ignoring the benefit -- it's the equivalent of corporate limited liability. If you get a car loan and then some idiot totals your new car, that's the bank's problem now and they're the ones who have to deal with the insurance company instead of you. If you lose your job and your life gets messed up temporarily then you don't have to wait 7 years to start over.
And that's not even counting the privacy benefit.
Also, the best version is for centralized identity to cease to exist whatsoever (e.g. stop issuing people social security numbers or prohibit their use for anything but social security) and then people can't give up their centralized identity in exchange for magic beans because they haven't got one.
I could easily just buy up some account that has good credit since it's all anonymous, no way to know if the original 'good credit' actor is the same person now applying for the loan.
All those private firms are in many ways identity providers just as real and official as governmental ones.
No they don't. They exist for the purpose of selling advertising. Any other purpose is either marketing copy to get you to use it or an emergent property based on people believing the marketing. Consider that LinkedIn would continue to exist if it provided no social capital whatsoever as long as it could still get ads in front of eyeballs.
Another observation: whether any specific social network "builds social capital" depends on the demographics of the audience and general "trendiness". People in high school don't care about LinkedIn, professionals in their 30s don't care about TikTok. Does this mean that TikTok should be an "identity provider" to people under 20?
Having said all that, I wouldn't want to use it as an identity provider. :)
The later one guarantees the identity: full name, date of birth, address, verified phone number, last taxable income, etc...
It allows to request government benefits or open a bank account online, because the identity is guaranteed. There is a real verified person behind the account. (corollary: you will be in troubles if somebody gets credit cards under your UK identity).
On the other hand, it's not great if that identity is required to apply to a job. The company can see your passport after they hire you. There is no need for every job board and recruiter and company to systematically get all your personal information in advance.
I've never understood that way of viewing things. For me identity is a right. The government must provide me with the means to prove who I am and my associated data like birth certificates, academic titles, health (vaccination), real estate and indirectly verifying identity for private contracts that use my national id card number.
In an oppressive state identity surely could be oppression, just like everything else, but in a democratic country? Come on. In the USA goverment and even private entities are collecting massive databases of everybody's data. But there's this panic about a centralized service providing identity. It makes no sense.
What makes you think a democracy can't be oppressive?
Even in perfect democracies there is something called the tyranny of the majority, where the majority can oppress the minority.
If we're talking about the US in particular, we have to recognize first that it's not even a perfect democracy, and there are many anti-democratic things about it such as the electoral college, and plenty more things that hinder democracy even where it exists (such as poor civic education, money's outsize influence in elections, extremely biased media, branches of government which shirk their balancing and oversight roles, etc).
Then, to get specifically to the oppressive aspects of the US, they range from slavery and lack of women's rights from its foundation, to segregation that existed in law up to the middle of the 20th Century (and arguably still exists in fact to some extent and in some places in the US even now), to the imprisonment in concentration camps of Americans of Japanese descent, to discrimination against people who weren't heterosexual, to the War on Drugs and police brutality which primarily impact minorities, to abuse, killing, and imprisonment of people who come to the US from other countries.
All this oppression and more has happened in what is ostensibly a democracy, and often likes to style itself as the world's greatest democracy.
And all of this oppression has had to do with identity, which required identifying people's race, gender, sexual preferences, or country of origin.
Such identification is amplified and made all that much easier in the age of computers, the internet, and gigantic databases on everyone. It's a data trove just begging for abuse.
To the imprisonment of those who refuse to surrender their privacy and submit an income tax return, and pay the income tax, to the prohibition of mutually voluntary economic interactions, like getting a haircut from an unlicensed barber, where barbers are licensed.
The important thing to remember is that oppression in a democracy is not perceived as oppression to the majority, so democracy will generally be perceived as non-oppressive, due to the subjectivity of what constitutes it.
All of human history is filled with bloodshed, tyranny, endless wars, conquering, slavery, piracy, vandalism, raiding parties, human sacrifice, religious battles and authoritarianism, with just a few punctuating moments of anything resembling democracy and recognition of human rights. That goes for every race, country, tribe, continent and creed. No heritage is innocent of that. That's the truth. 1776 didn't have to succeed. It very much could of ended with being squelched by the Crown and then where would we be today? Perhaps the Nazis would of won. Perhaps the Soviets would have developed imperial ambition in the absence of a strong US to keep them in check. Maybe the world would be a darker place. I suspect that without the U.S. that it would be, since that's the rule of history and not the exception.
Interning the Japanese Americans was of course wrong, but when you're fighting a world war and tens of millions are dying at the hands of Japanese (they slaughtered Chinese by the tens of millions)...it's very touchy isn't it? The lesser of two evils in that particular war was certainly the U.S.
Again, prior to world war 2 the world was still filled with imperial forces itching to conquer and enslave other people by the tens of millions. This is just 80 years ago...not that long ago. There was no where else in the world living up to the high ideals we seek to achieve today back then. The U.S. was that place for so many people to escape to. The Jews being one group. The Cubans being another. The Vietnamese being another. The Koreans being another. If you're going to paint the picture, paint it in the context of the world at the time and the subsequent actions in the wake of those problems. I think individuals deserve forgiveness after some time, and the same goes with nations, given that their behavior is corrected. There's nothing wrong with the movement towards more civil rights. But expecting things to go from millenia of imperialism to utopian democracy overnight, especially one saddled with so much legacy from that era, is naive. Again, it didn't have to go so well. It could have very gone south and ended up worse off for everyone.
Many of the founders were also elitists who didn't want anyone but landowning white men to run the country. They were wary of "mob rule" (ie. direct democracy), and preferred to have the elites rule. The jury's still out on whether they were right or whether direct democracy is actually better. Considering how much power and wealth is being concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority in the US, I'm siding with having more direct democracy, not less.
"I get that it's easy to point out the hypocrisy of the phrase "all men are created equal" when slavery was still a thing in half the states, but it was a very tenuous situation to go against the crown of England in 1776."
The existence of slavery in the US wasn't just about 1776.. it lasted until 1865. The US was one of the last countries to end slavery.
"All of human history is filled with bloodshed, tyranny, endless wars, conquering, slavery, piracy, vandalism, raiding parties, human sacrifice, religious battles and authoritarianism..."
"Interning the Japanese Americans was of course wrong, but when you're fighting a world war and tens of millions are dying at the hands of Japanese (they slaughtered Chinese by the tens of millions)...it's very touchy isn't it? The lesser of two evils in that particular war was certainly the U.S."
The point of my post wasn't to say there weren't reasons (some might say excuses) for the US to behave the way it did (extreme, widespread racism against minorities is one such reason and excuse), nor to deny that some countries were just as bad or even worse, but to recognize that massive, serious oppression did in fact happen in the US, despite it being some sort of a democracy.
Oppression in the US is still happening, is likely to continue, and will probably be greatly enabled by the easy availability of identifying information on the people within and without its borders.
Inevitably, when this topic of discussion comes up, I almost always see a response of this type, calling into question the entire foundation of the USA on the basis of the founding brothers being white slave owners, and it really bugs me, but I'm having a hard time trying to articulate it well...
I think it mostly centers around a very superficial understanding of the evolution of the enlightenment and the renaissance into the culmination of those that was the US. I would probably respond better if, when these arguments get thrown about, I heard discussion of the philosophical underpinnings the founders, in particular Madison, based their proposals on. Discussion or reference to individual liberty, natural law and natural rights, and such, as learned from study of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Locke, Hobbes and Spinoza, Montesquieu, etc.
I almost never see these referenced in this responses though, and to me it seems very dangerously close to "throwing the baby out with the bathwater", and I fear that the sentiment is growing so rapidly, as shallow as it may be, that the lack of understanding why America truly is a revolutionary country and is exceptional in history will potent some very turbulent times in the future.
Yes, the system was imperfect from the start, and has been even more imperfect in implementation, but to say then that the whole system (not saying you said this, but it seems thinly veiled to that affect often) must be thrown out is foolhardy at best. The shining light of America is that it has, in it's founding documents, a system designed to self-improve over time. I see our main problem as being the lack of memory of why each piece of that system is so important, and have allowed it to become corrupted. The path forward then is in seeking to enforce the core foundational principles the founders thought very hard about (such as Montesquieu's checks and balances system), and not to discard them just because they came from people that were imperfect.
It doesn't sound like you're actually disputing my main point at all, but wanting to shift the discussion on to whether the American system of government needs to be replaced and why, which is really off-topic.
Still, in response to your tangential point, I want to make clear that I'm not advocating discarding the entire American system of government, and my dissatisfaction with parts of it as they stand now does not stem from who the founders were.
I do think the system has proven itself to fail at meeting the high ideals that some of the founders professed to have. The system has proven itself to be highly corruptable, the checks and balances built in to the system have failed, and much of the Constitution is widely ignored or reinterpreted to mean whatever the people in power want it to mean.
These failures are not due to the founders owning slaves, but due to them being unable to foresee or adequately prepare the nation for things such as mass media, the internet, modern advertising and propaganda, and a slew of consequences of modern warfare, mutually assured destruction, the military-industrial complex, corporate dominance of the economy, enormous amounts of money being thrown at elections, the shutting out of third party alternatives, the poor civic education, widespread apathy and easy manipulability of the electorate, and on and on.
Despite the founders' short-sightedness and all the fialures and weaknesses in the American system of government, I am not an advocate of eliminating it wholesale. I believe reform is possible, and that it could be made more democratic, more accountable, more fair and just, and we don't have to scrap it all to do it.
However, I very much doubt the political will or consensus is there to make significant positive changes. If anything, I expect it to get much worse before it gets better.. if it ever will.
It arguably failed so long ago that virtually nobody notices. For the first ~century, corporations were allowed only in the public interest. To some extent, that reflected outrage at the excesses of corporations chartered by the English Crown. But there were also concerns about the concentration of money and power.
But that began to fail in the mid 1800s, with the rise of the railroad corporations, and their growing political power. And it ended with the 14th amendment and some Supreme Court opinions, which granted many citizenship rights and legal protections to corporations.
But property-based identity held a lot of currency by the time 1776 rolled around: it established credibility as an actor with some real agency and independence within trade relations, and therefore our modern nations have built their legibility around property. And what we've done since is to either try to position everyone somewhere within the property system, or to turn towards an authoritarian model to create identity without ownership(as in the various communist experiments, or the flat, hidden authority in "Tyranny of Structurelessness").
So when we have the idea of something like identity theft, or corporate personhood, that's a thing generated of having an identity to own, cascading down into human relationships as property, personal branding, etc. And the largest, most developed function of the legal system in the US is to make judgments about property. But we also have systems of identification that are imposed in an authoritative fashion(the SSN, DL, passport, etc.) - every nation is a mixed identity market in this way.
And in this respect I think the philosophy is truly starting to fail in a world which has so greatly automated ownership, and we will need to consider both identity and property at the same time to reach useful alternatives.
So to use your example of more democracy. One of my pet peeves is when people say we are a democracy. We are a constitutional democratic republic to be precise. There are elements of democracy, but we elect representatives. The problem to me is that the representatives no longer represent us. If you consider moving them towards representing the people democracy than I am all for that. What I am not for is a move towards rights of groups as opposed to individuals, because history has shown that ends up being abused.
All in all, I hope that reform is possible, but it is hard to see the pragmatic path there with how bad the system is currently, so we agree there. I just hope it doesn't devolve too much, because if it does, in this age of technology it will be extremely bloody for all involved.
However, I cannot change my government provided identity.
Right now I can have multiple identities: one for work, one for my WoW guild, one for security research.
With a single centralized identity provider I couldn't do that. They wouldn't just be able, they would by default associate my personal and professional associations.
I feel that the risk of a single central (and especially government run) identity provider is that it can chill freedom of association by disallowing you to anonymously, or if not anonymously then disconnectedly associate with people or groups.
Historically "identity" wasn't a right, but something imposed on people, for better tracking and controlling them by authorities...
>In an oppressive state identity surely could be oppression, just like everything else, but in a democratic country?
Oppression is not about democratic vs totalitarian state. McCarthy and Hoover, to mention just two examples, reigned over others in the good ole democratic US of A.
Not to mention very few (if any) countries have actual direct democracy, or give the people say in how they want to be governed, from the constitution and downwards.
I used to own a wonderful book about the history of data science. As I recall, starting in maybe the 1600s, experts in France and Germany were tasked with tracking populations, birth and death rates, economic activity, and so on. And the primary goal was to aid in military planning. Unfortunately, I've lost the book and forgotten the title and author. And the search terms are so topical as to be useless.
I do recall reading it, however.
Identity is a philosophical problem and a relationship, and so far we've managed to kick the can down the road of what an identity might mean outside the nation state, but the internet may prove to be a bit of a forcing function in deciding some of these questions we had the luck to avoid. I've been doubtful of digital identity startups because most of them are just substituting an opaque problem in crytography for the capital-H hard problem in political philosophy, which originates in prehistorical problems in collecting a census.
Maybe OAuth with some OIDC extensions and attributes solves everything, and FIDO has solved it, but if there were a way to bet against that, personally I'd go all in.
I recommend starting there on personhood, as like the role of gravity in your analogy, it's a complex enough topic that it would be worth reading up on, since it's more plausible that the details of it matter than the implication that I am some kind of wizard engaged in mesmerism.
I'm not talking about "identity" as in "being somebody".
I'm talking about identity as in identification, documents, and so on -- which is what we were discussing (as in "identity provider" in software terms).
The existence of centralized identity is what enables those databases. They're all indexed by the centralized identity. You give Facebook your "real name" and location and the same thing to your bank and they correlate them in a database. If you were using a different identity for each one they couldn't do that.
On the other hand, creating some kind of national ID authentication system would make it much worse, because then things would require that. You couldn't sign up under a pseudonym, so now even the things that are currently separate or that you can keep separate if you want to would be forced into being correlated with everything else about you in those databases. It's an attack.
In Belgium, changing your name is virtually impossible. The king (ostensibly) has to grant permission; you need to provide a "valid reason". This never made sense to me.
Did the industry ever get around the sub-par SAML protocol which had no support for the active requestor profile, and the superior WS-Federation protocol which had to use the technically superior SAML token?
There are a couple of companies that are using hyper ledger to federate identity providers like banks, governments, and other institutions, but the scope of that identity is still local to the federation participants who are a walled garden of their own.
The prefix "ur" is derived from old high German "ur", old Nordic "ōr" or Gothic "us": "from, out of".
That there's an ancient city of that name is purely incidental.
A weapon against who? A self sovereign affinity group could just be a community trying to self organize without relying on non-owned infrastructure. Aka prepper stuff.
Decentralized solutions, as I've read about them in their current form, require a significant amount of technical knowledge to understand. That is, to understand both what they are and, more importantly, their benefits ("why does this specific solution matter to me?"). Past that, the user experience is extremely poor in comparison to clicking "log in with Google", and I'm not convinced it can ever fully get there.
It is for those reasons that I think centralized identity is here to stay long term. Most people aren't going to spend the time to learn about this because they just want the easiest solution and don't care about their data being sold. I know several people in tech that fully understand the extent of how their data is used by internet corps, and don't mind it because they prefer convenience for free. And I think that's OK--it's their informed choice.
Personally, I try to login with email most of the time, and that's the limit of my drive to care about the security of my personal data. But my email is gmail, so I doubt it really makes a difference from login with Google.
In Mexico, credit cards are stolen and reamed for all they're worth by criminals. As a result, everyone uses cash (decentralized, anonymous, difficult to use). Everyone could move to decentralized in the face of significant pressure, even if centralized identity is more convenient.
Considering how Americans view other Americans (I hear "stupid" thrown around a lot), I strongly doubt that a decentralized authority would ever gain enough trust in the US to take hold today without a strong historical precedent.
For what it's worth, cash is still centralized. It's made "legitimate" by the power of the central government, and is managed & controlled by that authority. Given, it is somewhat "decentralized" because the value of fiat money comes from the people's agreement that the currency has value. On the other hand, the US dollar's global hegemony exists in large part because of global US Military presence, which is absolutely a "central authority".
I disagree that it matters for trust in CC's. It may have damaged experians reputation, but people still trust amex/MasterCard/visa and their banks, despite Experian being useless. The fact that Experian is required to access those systems is unfortunate, but most people don't deal with Experian directly.
I think people's day-to-day trust in banks is well placed, for what it's worth. I banked with a large bank that fell in 2008, and had less than 10,000 in my bank. My money wasn't affected, I just had to find a new provider.
I've had multiple incidents of fraudulent transactions on debit and credit cards over the last 15 years, and in _every_ instancr, my card provider has sided with me and refunded me the money immediately (even in the one case I was actually wrong and it was a billing mistake). Those amounts we're almost always in the few hundreds.
If a centralized system is not inept, it can do all the same things decentralized things do and better.
I didn't even know Microsoft family was a thing, but setting it up and configuring it (from my perspective), was intuitive and simple. My mother and brother however struggled to follow along, an are stressed that they won't be able to manage it.
Most users (even my spouse who is in her late 20's) readily fall into this category. My point is that if configuration requires any troubleshooting it won't reach mass adoption unless it addresses a perceived necessity without an alternative approach.
When you visit a website that works with it, to login, you just grant the webpage access to one of your profiles. (I just use one profile for everything, but you may wish to keep some things separate). Then any activity you do can be associated with that profile. No passwords or keys or even email addresses to remember.
It's still pretty early, but imagine a more polished version of that with a user-friendly installer. If you had the software installed and running, it'd behave pretty similarly to e.g. Google's OIDC provider. Linux distros could even preinstall it. (I have no hope that MS/Apple/Google would do the same since they all have their own centralized providers.)
* Its value prop is poorly explained. As an engineer with a CS degree, I still barely understand what it's talking about (what's an "identity attribute"??) without some digging.
* Even if the value prop was well-explained, it's still very high friction compared to "Sign in with <Service I Already Use>". Why would a user download an installer and deal with managing all of their accounts? There's a secure, anonymous, easy, centralized option that does it all for you (Sign in with Apple). That service does it so well that you only have to click a button to log in or sign up. Nothing else required. That isn't achievable without a central authority managing everything for you.
* (this is the big one) Your local machine is a major point of failure. If you lose your local machine and haven't backed up your accounts, you just lose access, right? The only solution is either set up a server with periodic backup (too much friction for regular users) or a centralized authority that stores them for you, which defeats the purpose of all of this.
This project, to me, falls into the "cool technical stuff category". It's obviously built for "geeks" (lack of a better term) and not for people. That's why centralized tech co's will probably always do this better than open source. They are customer focused just as much as technology focused.
Unmonetized open source projects tend to focus more on technology than user experience. That's why you see regular people using monetized software and developers using open source to build monetized software.
It's not really ready to be used widely at this point. Given that, the fact that the documentation is currently more oriented towards developers working on identity software is fine, I think.
>Even if the value prop was well-explained, it's still very high friction compared to "Sign in with <Service I Already Use>". Why would a user download an installer and deal with managing all of their accounts? There's a secure, anonymous, easy, centralized option that does it all for you (Sign in with Apple). That service does it so well that you only have to click a button to log in or sign up. Nothing else required. That isn't achievable without a central authority managing everything for you.
Sure, installing software is higher-friction than using a centralized service, but it's not that much higher friction. It's not like people don't install software all the time. (And again, this is something that could easily be preinstalled by your OS vendor of choice, which would make the experience very similar to the centralized providers'.)
>Your local machine is a major point of failure. If you lose your local machine and haven't backed up your accounts, you just lose access, right? The only solution is either set up a server with periodic backup (too much friction for regular users) or a centralized authority that stores them for you, which defeats the purpose of all of this.
Yes, this is a big one. No, I don't think those are the only two options. You could sync them between devices if you have more than one (phone/laptop?), you could store them on a user-specified data storage location (think MIT's Solid), etc. I acknowledge that it's a problem, but I think it's a tractable one.
>This project, to me, falls into the "cool technical stuff category". It's obviously built for "geeks" (lack of a better term) and not for people.
I think you're looking at the project as it is, and not as it could be.
Though a weird set of coincidences I often get support tickets about people using or enrolling in TOTP escalated to me. These people have never used an authenticator, except for the company-mandated Microsoft authenticator. Not only do they simplify the concept thinking there's just one code for everything (e.g. microsoft token are used for AWS, don't worry these people only have access to some S3 stuff) they also extrapolate that because Microsoft sends them a push notifications, AWS must too, and they didn't get one, so it's obviously broken.
Email is slowly losing this awareness too. The only remaining analogy that's probably not going away is getting your credit card from a bank while they still work on the same network.
If users are still unwilling to run their own infra, then that seems like a great opportunity for Identity as a Service. I'd feel much more comfortable handing identity to a firm whose entire business model revolves around securing my information and protecting my privacy rather than a big-tech.
I would call okta, auth0 and iWelcome big-tech already, even if they're not FAANG-level big tech yet.
I'd rather, as a company, risk managing all of my users' identities (vulnerability to a data breach, mitigated by a well-trained security team) than trust my users to manage their own security well and inevitably deal with a mass amount of compromised accounts.
As a user, especially if I'm not technical, I'd have a strong bias towards handing my identity to a team that's spent years studying computer security. Managing my own identity would involve learning a lot about computer security. That would take a lot of time and I'd really have to care about it to do it "right". Regardless, I'd likely get a lot of things wrong, leading to my identity being more insecure than if I had just stored it with someone like Apple.
The bigger problem is convincing people that it's worth switching. Apple is the closest to doing this with "sign in with Apple". "Sign in with Apple" hides your identity from the client site, the value prop is clear for the user, and the process as close to frictionless as possible. But the solution is still "centralized". Apple stores all of the information to make the system as frictionless as it is.
Centralized has subscriptions, advertising, and "surveillance capitalism." Decentralized has nothing. I had some hope that cryptocurrency would provide some kind of mechanism, but cryptocurrency was taken over and destroyed by scammers and bad money drives out good.
The lack of an economic model is IMHO why decentralized solutions have not succeeded, not technical challenges.
One possibility would be to abandon the free as in beer part of open source ideology and go back to just charging for software, but licensing and payment add friction and it's very hard to compete with "free" options funded surreptitiously via surveillance.
BTW the fact that cryptocurrency was destroyed by scammers and criminals highlights a second huge issue: it seems to take the efficiency, executive ability, coordination, and direct human guidance of a centralized system to resist bad actors. This is why even the most democratic countries have mechanisms to phase shift into dictatorships during emergency or war. I have yet to see a decentralized system that became popular and was not instantly destroyed by black hats.
You’re right. This lack needs to be addressed for us to progress.
How about this model? Would like feedback: https://qbix.com/token
They can find out if you are a user of sex.com or dangerouspoliticalopinions.com
They can do this by trying to register an account with your email address, and being told it was already registered.
Here is a tool that allows anyone to do it:
However, I believe that would fail for those using Google or Facebook authentication. But I can't test that, given that I don't have an account with either.
If you want a general-purpose open-id style account, you visit a notary, and provide them with a fee and proof of your identity. You tell the notary how much information they can share (in particular, whether they can release your name to the internet, or just the "we verified this account is held by a real person" boolean).
The protocol would cover much more than passport info though. You could have a notary vouch that you're a licensed driver, or have a college degree, visited a certain country, etc.
That might cut through some flavors of online nonsense. It would also allow people to stay pseudonymous, and yet enable law enforcement to subpoena their identity, if they go on a killing spree, or hack a few million dollars worth of bitcoin.
Since we have Let's Encrypt I'm not entirely sure what CAcert's place and purpose is, but I think with an existing network of trusted people they are in an ideal position to pivot into a decentralized online identity system.
Mark Shuttleworth's Web of Trust similarly had so called Thawte Notaries but I think it was discontinued a few years ago.
Humans, generally, are very bad at caching document fraud. It wouldn't be a vouch for a licensed driver but instead it would be a vouch for "a bit of plastic that looked like a driving license to me".
There is lots of sophisticated fraud and often automated solutions have a much higher rate of detection than your average person, even with some training against common attacks.
The main issue is minimizing cost. Dot com companies and banks don't want to pay for this so they peg online identities and account security to SMS effectively pushing off the problem to cellular companies. Cellular companies lack the competence to handle IAM. Opening a branch in every city is very expensive and companies don't want to even pay ~$10 for an offshore script reader to check a SMS code and verify "public information" off a credit report.
Credit card companies that are already liable for fraud usually settle for SSN+DOB, ID scans and aforementioned Equifax data verification because fraud losses are cheaper than in person due diligence.
Public notaries are licensed by US state governments. There is generally a background check, brief training course, and application fee. In at least some states they have strict liability for theft of their stamp.
Rejecting issuers would be more applicable to repeated transactions from a corporate certificate authority.
As a person being notarized it sounds like I have to give that business more personal information about myself than I usually have to do to get an online identity, as suggested by your subpoena statement.
As a service trying to verify accounts I now have to trust a third party. Maybe the notary has a business that sells fake IDs in the back that are then used in the notarizing process. Maybe my competition set up a burner notary node in order to flood my service with malicious accounts. It sounds like an attack vector.
The internet is important. When something is important enough, it is worth the risk. That's why people share secrets with their bank, lawyer, doctor, psychologist, etc.
We are squandering most of the potential of social media, because its design limits worthwhile conversation to hypotheticals. Since there's no reason to trust the honesty or motivations of anyone online, discussing actual data or life-experience is pointless.
Clubs don't care about identity. In some parts of the world they care about age and outward signs of affluence and/or attractiveness.
This is never going to happen. I will never visit a physical location in order to create an online account. I strongly suspect I'm not alone in this regard.
The system is attribute based and requires an 'authority' to give you the attribute. After that the attribute lives on your phone and you can give it out to organisations or businesses asking for....:
- your name
- whether you are >= 18
- your address
- you can give out minimal information
- no 3rd party/intermediary required after you've received an attribute
China is already there. At age 16, you get your picture and fingerprints taken. If you get a phone, its ID is tied to your personal ID. Your WeChat account is tied to that ID. If you ride the subway or bus in a major city, or a train, your ID is recorded when you pay. A combination of phone tracking and facial recognition records where you go in some cities. It's even used to shame jaywalkers.
The US is getting there with Real ID. It's been postponed a year due to the epidemic, but soon you will need a Real ID, checked against your birth registration, to board even a domestic flight.
Which is why I am confused as to why the author spent so much time worrying about verifying identity. To me, that feels like it's completely missing the point of fragmenting your online experience. Is the author simply concerned with the amount of power associated with their google login?
In general I like the idea but since it's a EU-style project I don't expect it to go anywhere to be honest. And personally I don't think the benefit over e-mail based authentication is marginal. That said there are some extensions in OpenID Connect that can achieve something similar, and that (IMHO) are more likely to actually get widely adopted.
I'd love to have SSO under my own control, and while it was theoretically possible with OpenID 2 things have gone backwards with OIDC with everyone supporting it but restricting login to just the big names (Google, Facebook, Apple).
I put together a simple stateless OID2/OIDC identity provider: https://gitlab.com/rendaw/oidle but I have yet to find a website I can actually use it on. I still have hope though.
I'd almost sign up for a website at this point just to get a chance to use my OID provider...
Except that it's not possible. And worse, it's just hard enough to evade that only those with malicious goals will manage it.
> Large internet corporations like Google and Facebook allow all to create an account on condition that some personally identifiable information is revealed, usually a phone number.
Also Signal, sadly enough :(
> The benefit is that it deters most from repeatably creating new accounts when older accounts have been flagged or banned due to improper behavior. These companies gain the function of "identity provider": they manage your online identity that can be used to login in different locations of the internet. We all know many websites that offer a "Google login" or "Facebook login".
Yes, it "deters most". And mainly it deters vulnerable people, who need ~anonymity to protect themselves from adversaries. It doesn't deter spammers, trolls, scammers, bot operators, and such. There are just so many ways to use multiple phone numbers. Ranging from free websites to SIM banks. And actually, it's easier just to buy accounts, either fresh or old (which probably means stolen).
So even without getting into concerns about corporate gatekeepers, it's clear that this is a misguided approach.
So this is about the introduction of a new identity service. From what I get looking into Keyoxide it basically strives to be what Keybase originally intended to be.
From their Keybase migration guide :
"Keyoxide as a partial replacement for Keybase
It's important to moderate expectations and state that Keyoxide only replaces the subset of Keybase features that are considered the "core" features: message encryption, signature verification and identity proofs.
Message decryption and signing are not supported features: they would require you to upload your secret key to a website which is a big no-no.
Encrypted chat and cloud storage are not supported features: there are plenty of dedicated alternative services.
If you need any of these Keybase-specific supports, Keyoxide may not be a full Keybase replacement for you but you could still generate a profile and take advantage of distributed identity proofs."
This means the proof isn't dependent on a central server, which seems like a significant improvement.
Handshake  is a great project that helps decentralize online identity. Not only is naming distribution in the hands of the people with Handshake which ends the deplatforming/censorship debacle the world has been facing recently, but also, anything a name does can be verified with signatures verifiable against the blockchain.
The DID and VC specs are the most advanced tools we have now to implement decentralized identity, plus there are many startups applying these in real world, solving problems and generating open source implementations.
Btw, I joined the Internet Identity Workshop last spring and it was an incredible experience. (https://internetidentityworkshop.com/)
That said, the last couple of years, I have gone to great lengths to create a "digital personal brand," which is deliberately designed to help people find me, and tie all of my digital artifacts together.
I think that OAuth logins actually work against that. I want to leave "pointers" all over the place, that point to each other in a public manner. OAuth logins "bury" these pointers, so only "gatekeepers" can see the information.
It definitely means that I have to be a lot more careful, these days, than I used to be, in choosing what I write or expose online, but I don't feel it's too difficult. I like to think that I live a lifestyle that has very little to hide.
I was reading about that Fox writer that just committed career seppuku. I think that is a visceral example, showing that we can't trust the old cloak of anonymity to hide our trail, so it might not be a bad idea to, as Twain said, "live that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry."
It's part of a strategy that seems to be working.
Works for me. YMMV
An excellent example of something perversely non-standardized for identities can be found in messaging. Signal, Matrix, Whatsapp and OMEMO are even supposedly based on the same protocol. In terms of identity they are all complete silos. All the things you establish about an identity on one system is completely unusable on another.
Creating systems to kludge this mess together seems to be a way of avoiding the root problem here...
You can have as many passphrase protected backups of your identity in as many places as you like so in practice the more likely issue would be where someone else gets access to your private key. So that means some sort of revocation contingency.
Make a page on your domain with rel=me links to your social media profiles, have the social media sites link back to your site with a verified symbol next to the link when it scans and validates the rel=me link.
This puts you in control of your verification instead of federating it to a service like Keybase or Keyoxide.
$10/year * 4 Gigapeople online.
Mandate that much free revenue to the likes of godaddy? No thanks.
The author suggests that services built on top of these Silos that provide proofs of connection between all the identities. I welcome such initiatives and but I doubt they will lead anywhere, cause they are built on top of silos. And a silo, as soon as it figures out it loses money, it will cut down that connection.
What won't die is decentralized published standards and protocols that handle the Identity management through the internet. Starting from plain DNS, we can get AoR for SMTP, SIP, XMPP and on top of that we have frameworks that facilitate the identity management like Oauth2, OpenID etc. All open and standardized. We are getting there, we just need some more time I guess.
That's why I always thought that, Google, who owns emails has much more value than Facebook, that asks for your email. If facebook dies, you lose one aspect of your digital social part. If you lose your email though, you almost lose your online identity. I really can't get how Zuckerberg has missed that.
It didn’t really take off though, and I guess was quietly withdrawn.
But this is because I think nobody should be fired, de-platformed, banned or "canceled" for opinions/thoughts outside of those contexts.
Sure you could be fired from your work if you started shouting your opinions on your workplace. No you shouldn't be fired from your work for anything that happened outside that work.
Anonymity is needed for the sake of free thinking as a shield to any current/future mob that could ruin your life/career for just any reason at all.
In 10 Years you might find yourself ostracized because someone found some 20yo old snippet of code you wrote with "banned words" in them.
I used to think it was an acquired thing that you could have free opinions with your official identity (political or anything) and not risk your livelihood for opinions but the thought enforcing mobs are now everywhere and most companies will bend the knee to their bidding.
And obviously this identity needs to be decentralized to also protect that identity itself from being ruined by the various de-platforming attempts.
These days, I'm genuinely more concerned about the current mob rule mentality than government oppression.
I'm sure decentralized authentication won't come on commercial platforms though. Maybe some developer-centric services will add support once the Next Big Thing in authentication and authorization comes along, but companies want to keep as much of their account system under their control as possible. It might be because of data mining, it might be because of bot prevention, it might be because of fear of trusting external providers, but I just don't see any reason why companies would accept such an authentication system.
The closest thing I can see happening is a federated authentication platform like the EU is implementing with EIDAS. Authentication with your home government for EU-wide services, tied to your ID card. I don't think something like that will be implemented for much more than government institutions and banking, despite the idea having been proven to work.
Simply put, as long as it doesn't make business sense to trust another provider, businesses won't offer any decentralized authentication methods.
I described the motivation in more detail at https://github.com/shurcooL/home/issues/34.
This goes beyond owning your identity. Has government sponsorship. The EU is currently taking the lead in this area, search terms: "ESSIF: The European self-sovereign identity framework".
 https://www.w3.org/TR/vc-data-model/, https://www.w3.org/TR/did-core/
 https://github.com/decentralized-identity, https://github.com/mattrglobal/
 https://spaceman.id/, https://www.transmute.industries/, https://www.evernym.com/, https://sovrin.org/, https://mattr.global/
And it'll continue to mostly be 'account management' and not 'identity management' proper. We are going to want to 'share less' in a way, as the only real means really to keep our privacy.
Your bank account info is effectively secure, so are your medical records. So are your images if you store them with the right provider. The rest ... not so much.
It's neither utopian, nor dystopian, just 'what it is'.
Sorry, but no. I do not trust Random Website where I create an account for occasional usage to keep my email and password combo safe. I do trust Google and Facebook to do that. I also enjoy the great experience they offer when I have to delete said account: just go to google account page and delete the website from "my logins" or whatever they call it. Most websites don't even have a procedure to delete account.
How does it prevent linking those identities with real identities by using tools like browser fingerprinting, tracking preferences and stylometry?
I don't really see a way to keep my commenting (and even browsing to some extent) user friendly and disconnected from my real persona, so I act accordingly.
However, I'd like to be proved wrong.
I'm glad to see this! Although it seems to be hugged to death right now :( I had been using KeyBase for this, but after the recent sale to Zoom, I've backed away.
The DID spec has been the one big success so far, but implementations matter. Our implementation has been open sourced, and is compatible with oAuth and other specs like DID:
That's for sure how I see it :) It gives everyone the choice of what mix of real names and ~anonymous personas to use, and how to link them.
I know most people on HN believe this, or want to believe this, or especially want everyone else to believe this, but I still think the statement needs support. Or at least a qualifier like "in my opinion."
They mostly operate in federations, which is neither centralized nor decentralized.
Far too technical and obscure a solution for 99% of the world.
I think Apple, while not a complete solution, shows a path forward with Sign In with Apple allowing you to generate a relay email.
As always, whoever nails the user experience will win.
I agree this is where things need to move, but we need to make it so simple that users who don't care can still use it and those who do can get the most out of it.
I'll have more to say here. But for now, I'll just invite any who are interested in further discussion to a Podaero group: https://podaero.com/dashboard with invite code "44e5576d".
This way sign-up is as seamless as login. Is there anything like this I can use? Are websites not doing this because of spam and other issues?
This isn't really decentralization is it?, it's a new kind of account linking which requires one to trust the central verification authority.
Maybe I'm missing something.
With regards to decentralization: keyoxide doesn't hold the proofs. Your key does. You can take your key to any verification system, whether it is keyoxide website or some CLI tool or an app, and have that verify the proofs. Yes, you do need to trust the service. But that's where the open source and hopefully one day, network effect comes into play. If enough knowledgeable people trust it and talk about it, then less-techy people might one day too.
In the end, what is important to note is this: keyoxide is just an implementation detail. If soon a different service becomes much more popular and used, the "decentralized identity proofs" ecosystem still wins! I would love to see apps get developed where anyone can at the press of a button verify online identities. That will be the next big milestone.
Whenever I hear this I think, "What? No! That's the opposite direction we should be going." Identities that are hard locked to real people makes it so easy to harass, mob, cancel and abuse people. At least in the US, most employers are at-will, allowing for Viewpoint Discrimination.
Anonymity does have its issues. It also does allow people to harass with more impunity. But in many ways, it also exposes more of the deep self and the controversial ideas people have that they are less and less likely to discuss outside of anonymity.
Even semi-anonymous platforms like Reddit are going back on previous commitments to free expression of ideas; and the effect is that Reddit is becoming more one-sided/one-direction, just like the platforms everyone is fleeing into.
Always use your e-mail to sign up for things. I rarely ever allow applications to connect via social media/OAuth. There was a time on the Internet where we thought all identity providers could be interchangeable. I ran an OpenID IDP for years, but fewer and fewer sites allow OpenID logins:
sometimes you want (pseudo-)anonymity and sometimes you don't. being able to pick and choose seems to offer the greatest freedom, rather than pigeon-holing everyone into one option.
While there are many routes to be semi-anonymous, there are very few to being verified (or maybe I just don't know about them)
The reason is simple. In 2020, everybody is a brand. Things have become competitive to the point that the inevitable happened: business has occupied free time. We could lament that, or we could accept it, because it's the reality today, and I don't think we're ever going back.
Personally I think pseudonyms are a legacy of a time when the Internet was not taken seriously and whatsupdoggg69 was a perfectly valid username in a place where nothing mattered and Internet work had no monetary value.
That's changed, a lot. That viewpoint - which, to be honest, was probably questionable, even then - seems definitely wrong now. It seems more and more like the wrong path, and you don't have to go down it.
You need to start posting under your real name, and then keep doing that, so people know they can go to your advice, expertise, friendship, a place to pay attention, etc. That has a lot of monetary value.
My philosophy here is: unless you intentionally chose to leave money on the table, you should never leave money on the table.
So if you're working in 2020 at a prestigious or a first-mover startup (which covers a lot of startups), don't go on reddit and post memes under some name that will always be worth $0.
Instead, go on Twitter, post under your real name, and start becoming known as the go-to person for your niche of the industry.
If you are working at a startup, and building a name launched out of a startup (no lawyer is going to attempt to claim your real name social media handle), you can launch a consultancy, just off that.
Assuming your consultancy brings in 100k a year and businesses often sell for 10x revenue (a pretty reasonably assumption), then doing that over 10 years can build you a $1,000,000 consultancy.
Given those numbers, I think it's positively stupid to turn down $1,000,000 for the sake of a few forgettable jokes and political opinions that, let's face it, in the case of the average person, are not changing anything.
Instead, do the smart thing, claim that $1,000,000, and get used to using real names & real name content for everything.
As you say, using your real name builds your brand. However, you must then be very careful to avoid saying stuff that damages your brand. And as you basically say, you must therefore censor yourself online.
So why not do other stuff using pseudonyms? That's exactly why I started using them. I'm retired now, so there's really nothing about my meatspace identity to protect. But when there was, having the freedom to express myself honestly online was important to me. In particular, because I had to police my meatspace behavior so carefully.
I advise against that, because in my experience, when you have a real name and a pseudonym account, there's a strong temptation to post all your edgy, attention-grabbing content to the alt, and all the boring content to your real name account.
Which is really bad for your main account, actually.
Note that some of the most popular personalities on Twitter - Elon Musk, Balaji Srinivasan - take this "carefully moderate your opinions unless it's a pseudonym" approach and stomp all over it. They are the total opposite of that. I think there's a lesson there, too: to really reach the stratosphere (including fame and wealth), as an unknown person, you probably need to take some risks and post risk-taking content, and associate it with a name+face where people can rally to you.
To be clear, I'm not making the moral argument that pseudonyms are cowardly or a moral failing, so don't use them. I'm making the purely self-interested argument that your content is worth money and you should monetize it under your real name, because it's the best vehicle for that.
Didn't you get the memo? We're supposed to like government surveillance now. After all, now FBI/CIA/NSA are on our side and we can totally trust them forever.
Is it just new age cabala of decentralized tech to generate hype and intrigue? I've seen a lot of projects fall into this techno-wizardry naming trap, and enjoyed it myself, but I'm starting to get tired of the overhead of such abstractions.
If you do want to head off the crypto founders before they show up, perhaps you could write a comment along the lines of, "In case anyone is wondering, here are the reasons cryptocurrency/identity makes no sense when solving this problem..."
"I predict from prior experience that a bunch of cryptocurrency identity bagholders from 2017 will show up to shill their useless project not realizing it will never catch on and that product's adoption will never buoy their bags even if it did catch on"
Sadly the system cannot be used easily for any applications storing personal information since your identity is tied to a blockchain and the GDPR requires companies to make information deletable.
The reliance on abstract art for trying to make their points come across are still to vague for me to give the project a try, but who knows, maybe in another year or two the project and its concepts will actually be understandable enough for me to give it a shot.
As to your second point, I'm curious if any decentralized system will ever allow for full deletion of information once it has been replicated by another client. Any gossip protocol, or decentralized CRDT document system has to take into account that a client will go offline and retain information once it has been released into the wild. Whether or not a request to "delete" or hide that information is followed through with is almost impossible to regulate. It's perhaps more important to realize that what we publish, may always exist out there.
That being said, clients could randomly ask for "tombstoned" information to verify that other clients comply to a delete request, but it will likely always exist somewhere.