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Re: Principles of Identity in Web Architecture

From: Graham Leggett <minfrin@sharp.fm>
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2021 23:53:05 +0200
Cc: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-Id: <4A5AACE0-7DE9-4A63-99C3-D4C2FB6EACBD@sharp.fm>
To: "Patrick J. Hayes" <phayes@ihmc.org>
On 15 Jun 2021, at 18:08, Patrick J. Hayes <phayes@ihmc.org> wrote:

> Fine, provided that y'all come up with a crisp and reasonably tight – I won't say definition, but – an account, an explanation, of what y'all mean by it, to allow readers to immediately intuit the answers to simple questions. 
> 
> For example, one person may have several identities, I gather. Can a person use (have? display? enact?) more than one of them at once?

Yes. A holder of a Greek passport might be using that Greek passport to use the freedom of movement afforded to them in the EU, at the same time as that same holder of a South African passport uses internet banking to access banking services in South Africa. The Greek passport contains their name in the Greek alphabet, as well as potentially their name in the Latin alphabet. Greek surnames are gendered in Greece, but South African authorities typically assume the father’s gendered name, and so the Latin alphabet names in the two passports don’t match. The holder of these two passports are one person, but they have three names and two identities.

> Who or what controls which one is in use at any given moment?

Alice does. More specifically, the Greek authorities above don’t take instructions from the South African authorities, and the South African authorities don’t take instructions from the Greek authorities. There is no control outside of what Alice wants to do.

> Does the person always know which one of them is in use?

Yes, if the system they are using is well designed. Passports are separate documents that despite being standardised, are clearly distinguishable from one another.

> (Is this talk of "use" even appropriate?) Can a person engage in a transaction without an identity, just being the person that they are? (Or is this impossible by definition, because interactions always involve identities rather than people?

Yes. Alice walks into a shop, pays cash and walks out. Alice uses an Apple Music Gift Card to gain access to some music. Alice buys a one day travelcard, loads it onto a pay as you go Oyster card and uses it to travel on the London Underground. Alice buys a pay-as-you-go simcard and uses it to gain access to mobile services for a period of time.

> Or because the person /is/ one of their identities, as when we say, "Speaking for myself,…") Can more than one person have the same identity?

A company is a group of people. The “release key” on an open source project is an identity that may represent more than one person.

> Can things other than people have them?

Yes. Pets can be insured. To be insured, the pets need to be identified.

> Can an identity exist without a person, free-floating as it were? If information is given to one of them (does this even make sense?) then can the others now also access that information, or might there be things that one of them knows but the others don't? (Or is it wrong to even talk of identities knowing anything?) 
> 
> And so on. I genuinely have no idea what the proper answers are to questions like this. 

Identity has existed long before the internet, and if there is a plan to build anything useful the design needs to defer to real needs and experience of real life people.

If the needs of these people aren't met, they won’t use the system.

Regards,
Graham
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Received on Tuesday, 15 June 2021 21:53:45 UTC

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