Digital Identity

Continuing the authentication theme, while browsing the must-read Scripting site by Dave Winer, I came across a link to Jon Udell’s site. Seems there’s a digital identify conference coming up and Phil Windley, CIO in Utah, is speaking. Phil is someone that I’ve tried to meet at conferences in the past and never managed to – much to my disappointment. He’s clearly plugged in to the issues – and facing them down pretty much the same way as we are. The debate in John’s post is whether government’s should issue digital IDs or not. Every country or state will face this issue – in the UK we chose not to and have seen limited takeup (principally because of limited usefulness, standards problems and probably lack of interest). If the IDs are issued by government, then it could be argued that a lot of these problems will go away and that, because they exist widely, private sector companies will piggy back off certificates and use them in their own products, re-inforcing their usefulness. My favourite quote is “Lord knows PKI is a can of worms”. I’ve been quoted in the past as noting that certificates (in their ‘install to hard disk form’) are on life-support. Sorting this one out is a headache for us all. There are a few new things coming that might make it easier, but nothing that’s going to blow the doors off just yet.

Phil’s weblog on this topic is an excellent read … his “motto” on the site is “organizations usually get the IT [that] they deserve” and I don’t think you can say fairer than that. Just after that post, Phil talks about how journalists seem to make so many factual errors, are sloppy and don’t bother to investigate. I’ve been there – and somewhere in this blog are some similar emotive comments, I’m sure. But the more time you spend with journalists and the more you read, the more you see that it’s a tough job. If you have to take three bits of data, two suppositions, one possible fact and a couple of rumours and blend them together, the story is bound never to be absolutely exact. In my world where so many things are off-limits and where a story breaking can be quite a coup, it’s no wonder that the facts are often wrong. It’s the race to the deadline that probably causes the problem – noone wants to be last to hear about a story, so lots of things make the press earlier than perhaps they should. Now there’s a turnabout of views for me. Just shows that I know when I can be wrong. Still, I’m always delighted when the facts are right and, when they’re wrong, there’s usually a good laugh to be had. Unless, of course, the facts are wrong about one of my projects.

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