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Ben Laurie blathering


Anonymity is the Substrate

Kim Cameron’s blog draws my attention to a couple of articles on anonymity. The first argues for anonymity to be the default. The second misses the point and claims that wanting anonymity to be the default makes it a binary thing, whereas identity is a spectrum.

But the point is this: unless you have anonymity as your default state, you don’t get to choose where on that spectrum you lie.

Eric Norlin says

Further, every “user-centric” system I know of doesn’t seek to make “identity” a default, so much as it seeks to make “choice” (including the choice of anonymity) a default.

as if identity management systems were the only way you are identified and tracked on the ‘net. But that’s the problem: the choices we make for identity management don’t control what information is gathered about us unless we are completely anonymous apart from what we choose to reveal.

Unless anonymity is the substrate, choice in identity management gets us nowhere. This is why I am not happy with any existing identity management proposal – none of them even attempt to give you anonymity as the substrate.

6 Comments »

  1. [...] Ben Laurie at Links, contemplating the ”identity as a default” debate, argues “Anonymity is the substrate“: Kim Cameron’s blog draws my attention to a couple of articles on anonymity. The first argues for anonymity to be the default. The second misses the point and claims that wanting anonymity to be the default makes it a binary thing, whereas identity is a spectrum. [...]

    Pingback by Kim Cameron’s Identity Weblog » — 13 Aug 2006 @ 13:59

  2. [...]  Dave Kearns of The Virtual Quill (and many other venues) has joined the anonymity scrum: “Anonymity as default,” which I mentioned in the previous post, is taking on a life of it’s own. Now Tom Maddox has posted in his Opinity weblog, commenting on Ben Laurie’s commentary about Kim Cameron’s mention of Eric Norlin’s post concerning David Weinberger’s original thought that “Anonymity should be the default.” [...]

    Pingback by Kim Cameron’s Identity Weblog » Dave Kearns takes on anonymity — 15 Aug 2006 @ 6:13

  3. [...] I’ve been a reader of Ben Laurie’s Blog for some time now. I guess anyone with an interest in anonymity or identity management is going to end up there eventually. Ben recently started a blog exchange on the topic of Anonymity is the Substrate which highlights a concept I had previously not considered, that anonymity sits at one end of the identity spectrum. [...]

    Pingback by Steve’s Weblog » Blog Archive » Anonymity and Identity — 15 Aug 2006 @ 14:48

  4. [...] David also links to comment all over the techie blogoshphere on this and related threads, including thoughts from several identity gurus, including Ben Laurie, Kim Cameron, and Eric Norlin (both here and here). And follow the trackbacks and there are even more posts. [...]

    Pingback by Info/Law » “Anonymity as the Default” — 16 Aug 2006 @ 23:53

  5. By accepting the term “identity management” you’re already conceding too much. Think anonymous “rights management” or “capability management” instead. There’s a body of security literature on “ticket-based” systems in which a user’s right to do something can be verified securely without knowing the identity of the user. That should be the starting point. I would be opposed to a National Identity Card, but perhaps a ‘Nonymous Authorization Card would be A Good Thing — got the NAC?

    Comment by Steve — 24 Aug 2006 @ 2:39

  6. [...] I often get the impression that people think I believe I can fix the world by providing cunning crypto. As they say above, its not the whole answer, but I do believe its vital to start from a position of anonymity or you can’t choose what you do reveal about yourself. [...]

    Pingback by Links » A Surveillance Society — 7 Nov 2006 @ 10:32

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