Bill Smith: Digital Identity in a Networked World


Bill Smith, who is the Director of Liberty Alliance Technology at Sun and the Secretary of the Liberty Alliance organization, is speaking on "Digital Identity in a Networked World." Bill starts off by posing a scenario where your car tells you that a gas station with the brand of gas you like to buy is coming up on the right, its $0.10 less than average and you have a quarter of a tank left. Sounds like a great application for OnStar. He poses another scenario where the same car gets in a accident with you driving and the arriving EMTs get medical information about you before they get there. Two scenarios, different identity requirements. Moreover, there are multiple service providers in each case that need to federate to use that identity.

Bill gives three components of identity: physical (height, weight, gender, etc.), experiential (education, travel, dining, purchases, drug use, etc.), and preferential (food, clothing, religion, etc.). These traits attributes, and preferences can be used to tailor service, but only if they're available from the many places that they're stored. Bill makes the point that this really works: Amazon makes recommendations that people use. I wonder if Amazon has released any data on the percentage of recommendations that are converted into sales.

Liberty uses the term "network identity" to describe using federation to link digital identity islands. This provides a single logical identity while preserving and enhancing existing trust relationships. Liberty is establishing an open standard for federated network identity. Their objectives:

  • Interoperability -- no digital islands
  • Privacy -- let users control their information
  • Ubiquitous adoption -- create one standard