Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Verifying identity, identity relationships and identity cards

I've previously emphasised the importance of verification (data dozen for privacy-protective identity management systems, and how identity theft can be facilitated by lack of proper verification).

An excellent article by English lawyers Nicholas Bohm and Stephen Mason on "Identity and its Verification" is well worth reading (via Bruce Schneier.)

While the article was triggered by proposals by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe to introduce an "identity card" for European lawyers its scope is much broader, looking at what is "identity" and what's involved in verifying identity, with some general observations about identity cards.

Their conclusions:

"Those faced with the problem of how to verify a person's identity would be well advised to ask themselves the question 'Identity with what?' An enquirer equipped with the answer to this question is in a position to tackle, on a rational basis, the task of deciding what evidence will be useful for the purpose. Without the answer to the question, the verification of identity becomes a sadly familiar exercise in blind compliance with arbitrary rules.

In short, identity cards will not solve the problem of establishing identity relationships. Identity cards for lawyers will also risk creating costs, burdens and liabilities for lawyers and their professional bodies without conferring any countervailing advantage either on them or on society."

That last paragraph in particular of course applies to identity cards generally, not just ones for lawyers.

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