Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Manage your online identity brand -the final frontier?

Much of the work being done in the area of identity is centred around the following areas:
  • Enterprise Identity Management (e.g Provisioning, Access Controls, Authentication, Single Sign On)
  • User Centric Identity (e.g. Microsoft CardSpace, OpenID, Sxip)
Both have everything to do with IT systems. In other words, they are concerned with trying to identify who you are, what you can get access to, how you can easily get access to other things (propogation of identities between systems), personal identity related information you provide and how this is protected amongst other technology related things.

There's also quite a few sites out there that claim to help you manage your reputation. After all, your identity is directly related to what people think about you. It's not about who you think you are - it's about who other people think you are. This directly relates to trust and integrity of you as a person. The more respect you have (ie. the better your reputation), the more likely it is that people will listen to what you have to say (Side note: Google's famed "PageRank" algorithm is actually based on the "apparent reputation" of pages. The better a page's reputation, the higher it is on the list of search results). At this stage however, work around the "reputation area" is a little bit less focused on than identity and as a result it's a bit of a "wild wild west" when it comes to this topic. There has not been as much effort around consolidating and standardising the efforts being made around reputation. It's the typical cycle I suppose. Reputation is in the infant stages of development and everyone has their own way of trying to solve the issues. Heck, we're still trying to figure identity out. I'm sure this will eventually be done...once we sort out identity. This brings us to a rather interesting issue though. How do we control what people say about us? What if it's untrue? What if there's information out there in the great unwashed Internet that we don't want anyone to know about? How do we protect our "personal brand"?

I came across an announcement by InfoSearch Media that claims to do just this. It is yet to be released (Q1 2007 apparently), but it seems appropriate that a company that deals with marketing and content would come up with such an offering. There's probably going to be a need for this from a marketing perspective initially, but it only makes sense that this ties in with all the work around the other areas of Identity Management eventually. It rounds out the identity picture. After all, there are many individuals out there whose "personal brands" are the key to their livelihood. High profile celebrities come to mind, but this could apply to the average Joe. What if you did something in your younger days that you regretted and had the photos posted on a site you did not have control over? Even if you did, the Google search engine would probably still have the offending copy of the site in its publically available cache. What this "personal brand identity management" does is take the whole identity concept to the next level. It aims to help to figure out what the Internet says about us as individuals and provide a way to somehow control that information. I have no idea how InfoSearch Media are going to do this because we don't really "own" the information out there. At least not in the traditional sense. It's our identity data yes, but those constant "privacy policy disclaimers" we click blindly usually result in giving up our rights to the 100% ownership of the data that we provide the 3rd parties. So even if we know what's out there, how do we prevent the dissemination of that data? With this in mind, it's no easy task. In fact, Google probably has the best shot at doing this properly given that they are the "access point" into the Internet for most of us. Maybe they're doing this as a beta project. Who knows.

With this in mind, it looks like the whole identity journey has a ways to go...even more than most originally thought:
  • Step 1: Enterprise Identity Management - We're only starting to solve this one.
  • Step 2: User Centric Identity - We're beginning to understand this, but we're a long way from solving it.
  • Step 3: Reputation - There's a small percentage of disconnected companies and entities trying to think about this, but we probably won't even be able to get started properly on this for awhile.
  • Step 4: Personal Brand Identity - This is going to be much harder to solve and it's probably going to be a long time before we even scratch the surface here. Where would we even begin to solve this one? Is Google the answer? Perhaps.
In the meantime, the rest of us can continue to work on our metaphysical identity...on the age old philosophical questions that has been around since the dawn of time - "What am I put on this earth to do? What is my purpose? What is my personal Identity?" Few of us will ever find the answer to this question I'm afraid.

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