I was riding home on a packed commuter train the other day and decided I would conduct an experiment. What could I find out about the personal details of one of the people in my seating area of six just by using my phone and whilst on the train. One of them happened to be reading a printed email with their name on so I went to work.
Within a couple of minutes I had worked out which town they lived, which company they worked for, what they did for that company. I also knew their interests, hobbies and saw photos of the persons last summer vacation. I also knew their partners and kids names and where some of their relatives lived. It was simple because I could work out that the person most likely lived in New York or Connecticut given the train we were on. That, with their name is all I needed.
Now I like to think I am an honest person but given more time and a more nefarious intent I am sure I could have got into a lot more detail on this person. For example where exactly they lived, how much their house cost, how much debt they took out for the house etc etc....
This small story gives a clear picture of power and the curse of the age we live in. We have access to data unlike any time in human history. Having been fortunate to have been a teenager at the very beginning of personal computing it is so exciting to me see my dreams in college come to fruition. Online unlimited information - encyclopedias, maps, videos, communication, collaboration it is quite amazing what has happened in the past 30 years.
This explosion in power can be used to do so much good as well as bad. As human beings we will surely go down all avenues of opportunity.
At the root of our future in my view is the sanctity and value of our identity. I am afraid with all the great things technology has achieved in the past few decades we have not solved how to be sure of and protect someone’s identity.
What do I mean by identity? Some questions for you to understand....
How many passwords for web sites do you have to remember?
For those important sites how often do you have to deal with the hassle of 2 factor authentication?
When you want to buy something online how often do you have to enter your credit card online?
How many times has your credit card been replaced because your card company tells you there has been a fraud? Has the number of times this has happened increased in the last couple of years?
Have you figured out yet that anything you get for free on internet is actually just selling data about you so they can advertise back to you?
Has it ever occurred to you that in times of pervasive technology you still have a paper/plastic passport and driving license and you have to queue up, often for an extended time, to have it ‘checked’ by a human being?
With all of these issues we desperately need a simple, near foolproof, flexible way to secure and, when you want, provide items that make up our identity - name, date of birth, address, links to our finances, nationality, etc etc
I am sorry, dear reader, I dont have the answer to this problem but I fear we wont get a resolution soon because it is not in the interests of the current slew of technology companies for us to have this important feature.
Should such a mechanism be run by the government...which one?
If a company were to run this would we be willing to pay for it? VERY UNLIKELY
If we got it for free how would it be paid for? ADVERTS PROBABLY
If you have any ideas let me know!