Edward Snowden on Identity

In what must be considered a successful and interesting approach, the KNOW Identity Conference focused on identity related issues and identity related investment opportunities.

The first speaker was Edward Snowden, appearing via Skype from an undisclosed location. Mr. Snowden made a number of interesting comments.

He noted the government’s primary role in the provision of authenticated documents relating to identity. Indeed, supplying “identity” is one of the core functions of a modern government. Mr. Snowden suggested that governments focus on enabling people to interact with one another, secure in the knowledge of true identity. This needs to be facilitated both locally and globally, that is, you need to communicate securely (secure with respect to knowing the identity of the other person) over both great distances and/or over a shop counter.

As a way of facilitating this thinking, Mr. Snowden noted that one of the core ways to enhance identity is to have governments ask the question when focusing on identity data, “what do we really need?” Mr., Snowden suggests that citizens demand governments acknowledge that identity data will definitely be misused. The question then becomes what governments do under that eventuality. In other words, citizens need to ask governments what they (governments) will do when (not if) that data misuse happens?

As part of this focus, a recognition that people rarely need precise data to validate identity is helpful. In other words, to cash a check, you don’t need to know my blood pressure, height (to the centimeter), or exact weight (to the ounce). You may need approximations of this data, but you do not need exact numbers. The implication is that we should only use role or transaction specific and appropriate data. This data requirement changes with the nature (age, size, geographic location of the parties, time) of the transaction the identity data is (or will be) used for.

Mr. Snowden ended with more comments of the nature of the identity challenges faced in the modern age. He pointed out that dumb terrorists tend to be weeded out/captured quickly.

All in all, an engaging and thought provoking discussion. 

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