What identities do you trust in the on-line world - and why?

The Register recently carreed news that some of the main processes used to secure major on-line systems are not only under systemic attack but have already been compromised. This calls in question assumptions behind current plans to increase reliance on supposedly secure electronic identities. Last month I am helped open a discussion (sponsored by the European Commission) on the ethical and political issues posed by technology innovation and used the opportunity to trail some of the issues that should be addressed in the planned EURIM study on Information and Identity Governance.

I have also been invited to review the draft of book covering the need to upgrade the processes for planning IT dependent government policy initiatives. The book used planning for the census of 0AD, when Caesar Augustus decreed that all the world should be taxed, as a case study. 

What is new is the number of fragmented regulatory initiatives that not only get in the way of re-using existing solutions but threaten to drive wealth-creating businesses that depend on reliable and trusted personal information and credentials off-shore. Hence the urgency, as well as the importance, of the planned EURIM study.   

I was also sent the Pizza Hut text (dates back to at least 2006)  with a note saying that it summarised the reason the Jericho Forum is also working on Identity principles. 


Operator: “Thank you for calling Pizza Hut. May I have your national
ID number?”

Customer: “Hi, I’d like to place an order.”

Operator: “May I have your NIDN first, sir?”

Customer: “My National ID Number, yeah, hold on, eh, it’s 6102049998-

Operator: “Thank you, Mr. Sheehan. I see you live at 1742 Meadowland
Drive, and the phone number’s 494-2366. Your office number over at
Lincoln Insurance is 745-2302 and your cell number’s 266-2566. Which
number are you calling from, sir?”

Customer: “Huh? I’m at home. Where d’ya get all this information?”

Operator: “We’re wired into the system, sir.”

Customer: (Sighs) “Oh, well, I’d like to order a couple of your All-
Meat Special pizzas.”

Operator: “I don’t think that’s a good idea, sir.”

Customer: “Whaddya mean?”

Operator: “Sir, your medical records indicate that you’ve got very
high blood pressure and extremely high cholesterol. Your National
Health Care provider won’t allow such an unhealthy choice.”

Customer: “Damn. What do you recommend, then?”

Operator: “You might try our low-fat Soybean Pizza. I’m sure you’ll
like it.”

Customer: “What makes you think I’d like something like that?”

Operator: “Well, you checked out ‘Gourmet Soybean Recipes’ from your
local library last week, sir. That’s why I made the suggestion.”

Customer: “All right, all right. Give me two family-sized ones,

Operator: “That should be plenty for you, your wife and your four
kids, sir. Your total is $49.99.”

Customer: “Lemme give you my credit card number.”

Operator: “I’m sorry sir, but I’m afraid you’ll have to pay in cash.
Your credit card balance is over its limit.”

Customer: “I’ll run over to the ATM and get some cash before your
driver gets here.”

Operator: “That won’t work either, sir. Your checking account’s

Customer: “Never mind. Just send the pizzas. I’ll have the cash
ready. How long will it take?”

Operator: “We’re running a little behind, sir. It’ll be about 45
minutes, sir. If you’re in a hurry you might want to pick ’em up
while you’re out getting the cash, but carrying pizzas on a
motorcycle can be a little awkward.”

Customer: “How the hell do you know I’m riding a bike?”

Operator: “It says here you’re in arrears on your car payments, so
your car got repo’d. But your Harley’s paid up.

Customer: “@#%/[email protected]&?#!”

Operator: “I’d advise watching your language, sir. You’ve already
got a July 2004 conviction for cussing out a cop.”

Customer: (Speechless)

Operator: “Will there be anything else, sir?”

Customer: “Yes, I have a coupon for a free 2 liter Coke”.

Operator: “I’m sorry sir, but our ad’s exclusionary clause prevents
us from offering free soda to diabetics.”


Is it good or bad news that that the information on file today may now be available to organised crime, as well as wrong?  

Meanwhile it most public spirited of Jenni Russell to tell Sunday Times readers (April 24th,”We’ve sold our souls and our secrets for an iPhone – you have to pay to read on-line) that they should leave their iPhone’s behind when they go on holiday, lest their homes appear on the vacant premises website operated by burglars’rus.com. Meanwhile walking-the-phone.com provides alibis and misleading locations and content for all those who fear that the police (or the press) are monitoring them.