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Revision as of 13:50, 12 August 2018 by Tom (talk | contribs) (Identity can become Toxic)

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Full Title or Meme

Identity is a real world concept that allows us to associate attributes (specifically Trust) to entities, individual or corporate. It is not definable in sufficient specificity to be of any value in definitions of digital concepts.


Identity in the real world is modeled in the digital world by these four elements (all of which are able to be fully defined):

  1. Identifiers or names that are assigned to a continuing presence in the digital world,
  2. Attributes that are asserted for the entity and may be validated for greater trust,
  3. Behaviors that are recorded about the entity over time,
  4. Inferences that are determined by some intelligent evaluation of the above elements (this has the danger of becoming stereotypes).

To be of value in the digital world it is necessary to assure that an identifier continues to apply to the same real-world entity, even though that entity may change any of the other above elements over time. In this definition the real-world legal name is just an attribute as there are cases where it legitimately changes.


It has become too difficult to create any kind of computerized representation of a user to satisfy all the of requirements for identification and privacy of user information.

Identity can become Toxic

Most of the effort in Identity Management has focused on individual Users or Enterprises. The other part of Identity involves Identifiers for groups of individuals. As reported in Appiah's book[1] we learn that people tend to identify with others that share some set of Attributes, whether that is bridge players or white men. As that happens humanity's nemesis, tribalism, starts to rise between the people in "our tribe" and "the others". This tribalism is increasing becoming a nemesis of the internet as well. Since any Enterprise that collects Attributes about and Entity on the internet will have strong incentive to segregate those into groups with the same set of Attributes, the danger arises of creating stereotypes that can foster tribalism.


  • Abandon the use of the term Identity in any taxonomy used in computer networking.
  • The term can continue to be used in any ontology that does not need a high level of specificity.


  1. Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity