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Re: Principles of Identity in Web Architecture

From: Kingsley Idehen <kidehen@openlinksw.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2021 15:16:51 -0400
To: www-tag@w3.org
Message-ID: <1c59887f-7343-0369-b388-c51966f29fa3@openlinksw.com>
On 6/16/21 2:44 PM, Melvin Carvalho wrote:
>
>
> On Mon, 14 Jun 2021 at 03:41, Patrick J. Hayes <phayes@ihmc.org
> <mailto:phayes@ihmc.org>> wrote:
>
>
>
>>     On Jun 6, 2021, at 8:50 AM, Melvin Carvalho
>>     <melvincarvalho@gmail.com <mailto:melvincarvalho@gmail.com>> wrote:
>>
>>
>>
>>     On Sun, 6 Jun 2021 at 14:02, Philip Sheldrake
>>     <philip@eulerpartners.com <mailto:philip@eulerpartners.com>> wrote:
>>
>>         …. 
>>
>>
>>         It is reassuring to see you distinguish “identity” and
>>         identifiers in the context of humans, but your email here
>>         indicates to me that you still consider Alice to have just
>>         the one identity. This aligns of course with the
>>         comparatively recent (centuries) bureaucratisation of
>>         identity, aka legal identity, and the imperative for Sybil
>>         resistance in democratic, taxation, and wealth distribution
>>         contexts, but I have yet to find another discipline beyond
>>         law and information technology conceiving identity as either
>>         singular or enduring. Quite the opposite.
>>
>>
>>     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. 
>
>     I understand what Philip is saying here, but he wildly overstates
>     his point. In his minority opinion chapter for the SSI book he
>     starts by talking about players in Monopoly being represented by
>     the board pieces, then in a few sentences segued all the way to:
>      " Intuitively following some self-reflection, we all know that we
>     have different identities, call them personae if you like, or
>     avatars, that we adopt in different contexts.", then after
>     reminding us that "All the worlds a stage." he goes on to "I
>     referred to this earlier in the context of ‘being’ different
>     across different social media in different contexts, and
>     constantly revising those identities based on the corresponding
>     contextual relationships and interactions. Consider your
>     professional avatar, your parental avatar, your spousal avatar,
>     your student avatar, etc. Overlapping and interacting in some
>     respects no doubt, but always evolving and always contextual." And
>     he sums up: "Your ‘you’ in the performance review meeting at work
>     differs to your ‘you’ on your wedding day. Your avatars at age 35
>     will differ from those age 25, or indeed from those age 34. Or
>     34½. Or yesterday. Psychologists and sociologists understand all
>     this well." 
>
>     Psychologists and sociologists here, of course, as contrasted with
>     unimaginative computer nerds. But also as opposed to
>     clear-thinking philosophers. 
>
>     Philip in his email response is careful to use scare quotes,
>     speaking of "identities" rather than identities. He also refers to
>     personae and avatars. Fine, no doubt we all can have many of these
>     things that sociologists study, and they are of course contextual
>     and perhaps (though I would dispute with him on this) highly
>     transient and flexible. But these things, whatever they are, are
>     not identities. They are not what is talked about when people use
>     owl:sameAs, or what we mean when we say that a supreme court
>     judge, a cancer patient, a tennis player and a worshipper in the
>     Episcopal Church are all the SAME person. These "identities",
>     pieces on some super-Monopoly game, avatars of ourselves in social
>     games, are not distinct human entities. If the cancer patient
>     dies, so do the SCOTUS justice and the tennis player. If the
>     tennis player is tried for fraud or theft, so is the SCOTUS judge.
>     Identity means /being the same thing/, or in this more limited
>     sense /being the same person/, and sameness of personhood is
>     something far more fundamental, and in the end far simpler, than
>     these social avatars/projections/roles that Philip is talking
>     about. It means simply being the same person. In a legal sense to
>     be sure but also in a biological, personal-identity, continuity of
>     memory, continuity of physical identity sense. And, I claim, in an
>     ordinary everyday common sense. Alice is Alice, all one of her.
>     She is herself, and nobody else. 
>
>
> So perhaps it could be beneficial to separate the digital world and
> the human world, here
>
> Alice could have many digital identities (one for social nets, one for
> microblogging etc.) and one physical or legal identity
>
> The way that the web has evolved, is that these digital identities
> largely operate in silos, even when the stated goal is interoperability
>
> The aim of raising this architectural point is to try and make it
> easier for different systems to interoperate, and benefit from
> unexpected reuse.  Many systems want to do this, but seemingly dont
> know how to
>
> I know with identity, you can always say, "its complicated", but that
> doesnt get you too far
>
> It would be nice to create a document and say to digital platforms,
> 'If you follow these points, you're going to be easier to interop with'
>
> That could apply to web based systems, P2P, block chain etc. all of
> which have a notion of identity, albeit, slightly different


Hi Melvin,

Agreed, with regards to the quest for interoperability.

IMHO, It takes us back to the following principles, in the context of
apps and services:

1. Identify (or Name) things unambiguously using Identifiers (various
schemes based on open standards)

2. Use /Identifiers/ as the fulcrum for /Credentials/ creation (various
document types based on a variety of content-types)

3, Verify Credentials using a variety of Authentication Protocols.


Identifier referent reconciliation is ultimately left to logic, to the
degree discernible by an app or service, with regards to credentials
represented in documents e.g., user profile docs, app profile docs,
passports, and others.


Referents, Identifiers, Identification (Credentials), Authentication,
Authorization, and Storage are all loosely-coupled items that shouldn't
be conflated (overtly or covertly).

-- 
Regards,

Kingsley Idehen	      
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Received on Wednesday, 16 June 2021 19:17:26 UTC

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