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Re: Principles of Identity in Web Architecture

From: Patrick J. Hayes <phayes@ihmc.org>
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2021 16:04:18 +0000
To: Graham Leggett <minfrin@sharp.fm>
CC: Melvin Carvalho <melvincarvalho@gmail.com>, Philip Sheldrake <philip@eulerpartners.com>, TAG List <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <91B1C78E-5D6C-4825-BF6D-DBD49C6B95E6@ihmc.org>

On Jun 14, 2021, at 5:02 AM, Graham Leggett <minfrin@sharp.fm<mailto:minfrin@sharp.fm>> wrote:

On 14 Jun 2021, at 03:41, Patrick J. Hayes <phayes@ihmc.org<mailto:phayes@ihmc.org>> wrote:

You raise a good point.  Alice can have many identities.  …

Ahem. Allow me to call BS at this point. Alice does not have many identities. LIke everyone else who has ever drawn breath, and indeed like every endurant object, Alice has one identity. She has it, uniquely and irrevocably, from the moment she was born, to the end of her life. She is one person.

Technically Alice is one person, but practically Alice has not given consent for you to know who she is or attributes about herself.

Consent is key to all of this.

If I want to buy age controlled products from a shop (think alcohol, etc) I want to reveal to the shop the “i am of sufficient age” part of my identity, but I don’t want to reveal the age to the shop, or my name, etc. That’s none of the shop’s business. This is not a theoretical concern either, we know from the behaviour of companies on the internet that businesses can and will extract everything they possibly can out of the data they receive.

Violating consent is subtle and can be very cruel. If “having suffered bereavement” is a part of my identity, having some digital company saying to me “we’ve worked out that products X and Y might interest you, aren't we clever” is not ok. Having a digital company saying “we’re super clever, and so have worked out that you might not want products X and Y, can you confirm?” is even worse.

Yes to all that, but...

Alice has many identities,

No, Alice has one identity. There is one of her. As you said above, Alice is one person. But this is not a mere technicality, it is a very important basic fact about identity.

because Alice does not consent to you accessing her complete identity.

Yes, Alice does not consent to you accessing all the information about her. But information is not identity. It would be a serious mistake at this point to conclude that there are several different Alices, or avatars of Alice, or indeed several different anythings. This is not about identity, it is about control of information.

I guess this is just a matter of terminology. We have a perfectly good word to use here, 'information'. Alice wishes to give some information without giving other information about her. To do this requires, among other things, having a mutually comprehensible way of expressing that information, ways of securely transmitting it, and so on. But none of this has anything to do with identity or, still less with "identities", whatever they are.

Pat Hayes


Received on Monday, 14 June 2021 16:05:15 UTC

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