I care a lot about decentralized identity management and data ownership.
I want all data recorded over the course of my life to live in one place, accessible to me at all times. From womb to tomb. From lust to dust. But I have some concerns.
Until now, the economics required to support large scale generation of digitized identity have existed only within the framework of a corporate or national funding model. The type of data that can be affordably and sustainably added to such identity platforms must fit within the constraints of the approved funding model. Developers must first decide how to make money, then choose which data they need to create a profitable output.
This completely goes against the nature of human identity. We are the source of our data. We are the source of our identity. The extent to which our identity is cropped by the funding or value creation goals of a data platform limits the definition of our existence to fit within the platform developers’ curiosity, creativity, and greed. The desire to lock in “real life” identities into online forums, facebook, twitter, reddit, electronic health records, criminal records, citizenship, etc. grows from an economic need to build prediction models, of us all.
Even our understanding of ourselves is a predictive model. Our ability to explain who we are to other people is based on what we have done before, not what we are now, or what we are becoming. The idea of becoming someone new when you move to a new city or move to a new school is one of the only ways to “delete history” and reengage self discovery. But digital identities don’t allow for this. Like a suffocating relationship, most modern identity platforms aim to build permanent predictive models so the recording of new data can be minimized while maximizing our predictability. Listening becomes an expense, while successfully directing our behavior, is profit. Recording new data can then only be justified if the ability to predict us is increased as a result.
If Prism, or any decentralized identity platform hopes to reverse this dynamic, the act of recording new social or biometric data must be more valuable than any singular product developed using our data. The act of recording data cannot rely on funding from any data monetization scheme. If Prism fails to do this, it will become a weaker version of what Google, Amazon, and Facebook are already doing, and it will subsequently fail. We need an open, safe, and secure data economy
Take this MIT Technology review article for example. Facebook doesn’t care who we are, or even what our data are. It just wants to verify we are presently alive and which account is our main account. Even our death is an opportunity to target relevant advertisements to real accounts identified as “close” to us. What facebook doesn’t say, is this predatory behavior incentivizes the creation of fake accounts, and the hijacking of valuable celebrity identities, the very behavior they claim to despise.
I’ve always valued anonymity when contributing to online forums. Not because I want to hide anything, but because I want to discourage others from creating restrictive, predictive mental models about who I am. I might as well be no one. I’m sure healthcare companies, google, amazon, and facebook know way more about me than even I know myself. I might feel differently, I might be more comfortable openly sharing in a future where we are economically incentivized to ceaselessly listen to ourselves and each other, not to predict, but because it helps facilitate understanding.