Thursday, February 08, 2007

I want my identity back! Tough times ahead for data collectors

The slow-burn begins
At the end of last year I predicted (among other things) that digital consumers would start demanding their identities back. I was inspired in this thinking by Peter Miles writing on the Oxford Forum. Here's the original post on it:

The news that Microsoft is throwing its support behind the Open ID scheme is a very significant moment. It means there will be a very simple way for users to own their ID data and to control how much or how little they wish to share with you. And that data remains held by them - not you.

From the BBC report: "The Open ID scheme uses web addresses that people already own to help authenticate their identity...
"Microsoft has got involved to supply a technology it is developing called InfoCards to add more flexibility to the scheme.
"The InfoCard program gives users a way to identify themselves with varying degrees of detail depending on who is asking for information about them. Each InfoCard acts like a virtual index card that can store different sorts of ID information for different purposes.

I'll make some assumptions here. When a user can store their own identity and share only those elements they prefer - aren't they going to demand that this data is only available when they want it to be available to you, too? ie while they are logged in on your website - and removed the moment they leave.

The drive will be for them to demand you do not store those details in any form. New Data Protection Act anyone?

This all has huge impact for those who make their money from personal data - and should sound an alarm for those building business models around the ownership of personal data.

There is a ray of sunshine. People like how useful cookies are to them. Unless the Open ID system can resolve a way of taking your history for each site with you back to your own stored ID location, it might not quite spell the end of data acquisition.

But I suspect a solution to that will come. The real answer is not to rely on owning a relationship (by virtue of keeping someone else's data under lock and key) but in sharing an ongoing and persistent relationship - by continuing to deliver what that user finds valuable to their life and by encouraging a regular and enduring two-way flow of communication.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?