W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-interest@w3.org > February 2001

RE: does RDF require understanding all 82 URI schemes?

From: Bill de hOra <bill@dehora.fsnet.co.uk>
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2001 22:32:03 -0000
To: "Mark Grossman" <msg@geocast.com>, "David Megginson" <david@megginson.com>
Cc: <www-rdf-interest@w3.org>, <xmlschema-dev@w3.org>
Message-ID: <DCEBKOHMHCKKIAAPKLLMEEFFCBAA.bill@dehora.fsnet.co.uk>
>>
There are two things that somewhat ameliorate this problem:
1) You don't absolutely need a unique identifier for something, you can use an
unambiguous reference in some accepted namespace.  Just because you dont have
someone's U.S. Social Security number of an encoding of their thumbprint doesn't
mean you can't disambiguate them.
2) Through the miracle of descriptions, you can hone in on something's identity.
My name is fairly common, but augmented with my date and place of birth, I can
be uniquely identified.
>>


You can't, with absolute certainty, ensure that a mistake was not made in the
chain of events that identify someone from cradle to grave and that for some
system that person will not be confused with another person. This is real Real
World stuff and Real Lives get destroyed over such errors. Where lives are at
stake, a lot more is needed than a birth cert and a postcode.

SSNs, Birth Certs and the like, are sometimes called SUIDs (Supposedly UIDs) and
with good reason. SSNs in particular have rich history of being abused as
semantically overloaded identifiers: a process not at all unlike conflating
identifiers with retrievable resources.

Potentially SUIDs are ok for identification, on the assumption that the relevant
systems have accurate data (very big assumption); they are useless and dangerous
in some cases for authentication, ie a positive identification, (which is
distinct from a negative identification). We can't guranteee uniqueness and data
integrity across databases any more than we guarantee the absence of defects in
software: now and then you need to go out of band to be sure the identity
decision is indeed valid. I don't see what a URI adds to a UID that makes it
more than supposedly unique.

Bill de hOra
Received on Monday, 12 February 2001 17:32:36 GMT

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