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Identity

i-names, i-cards, managed i-cards, unique name spaces, twitter, facebook, trust, reputations, FOF, privacy, legal aspects, health care, anonymity, personas, etc.

Identity online and off is broken. It’s far too easy for people to get and use your credentials, pretend to be you, and cause you problems. Every time you want to sign up at a new web site or use a service, you must dream up a new identifier and password, and all the people who work at that company have access to those records. Studies show that most Internet users have over two dozen login names and passwords. Do you change your passwords often? Probably not, because it’s too much hassle. Yet changing your password often is one of the best measures you can take to prevent people from masquerading as you.

Three important new developments will help us get out of this trap and into a better way to use identities online, and then off: OpenID, i-names, and i-cards.

OpenID is a new ID system that lets you log in to all your web sites with a single login once in the morning. You give your password ONLY to an OpenID provider. When you visit other web sites, the web sites ask your OpenID provider for a token that validates you as the person you registered as. So rather than giving a password, the mechanics of logging in are handled automatically. The important thing here is that the sites you visit don’t know your password, so it can’t be stolen from them and used against you. Only your OpenID provider has your password, and that “key” opens many locks (50,000 web sites now take OpenIDs). You can change your password often and stay safe. It has been an exciting year of growth and adoption for OpenID in 2009.  There are now over 1 billion OpenID-enabled accounts from major identity providers, and over 9 million websites utilizing OpenID for registration and login on some portion of their website.  You can read a comprehensive summary of the accomplishments of OpenID during 2009 here. Learn more at OpenID.net.

I-names are the next layer of identity. They are built with OpenID in mind. You can use your OpenID to get a unique i-name, and that i-name gives you a “home page” for your identity. You can control who sees what information. You allow access, and you can revoke that access at any time. I-names are for personal use, and they are great for companies and organizations who provision names and need to keep track of hundreds or thousands of credentials. You can learn more at i-names.net.

Information cards, also called i-cards, will let us do all kinds of things with our i-names. Think of all the cards you have in your wallet, and all your keys. You use cards and keys to get into your apartment, start your car, let you into your office building, go to the gym, etc. I-cards are virtual cards that sit on your phone (and, someday, in your personal data locker) and do these tasks for you. And more: we’ll use i-cards for tickets, passes, debit cards, driver’s licenses, discount cards, passports, and much many other useful tasks. I-cards are task oriented – they are pre-programmed to help us accomplish something, and you can store as many as you like on your phone. If you lose your phone, change the password for your OpenID or I-name and the i-cards will immediately require the new password to work. Since you have several i-cards on your phone, you’ll use a piece of software called an information card selector that acts as a “wallet” for all of them. Learn more and watch the excellent video at Informationcard.net.

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Fortunately, OpenID, i-names, and information cards are here today and ready for tomorrow. All we need to do is start using them.

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Here are some of the companies and groups helping build this future:

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