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Identification is not a unary process. It's important to understand that identification always involves at least two parties. There is the party being identified and the party requesting the identification. For parties that are one person, which is the common case in OnlineCommunity, there are a variety of gradations of identification that go beyond a simple RealName. Each gradation has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. When constructing a system that requires identification, it may do well to understand the following list to pick the most appropriate balance.
Inspired in part from Marx's (1999) seven elements of personal identification, although extended and modified from that.
- RealName. This usually means the person's legal name, though the difference between a RealName and a legal name are important to understand. This name may be connected to biological, social, and other information that deeply embeds and locates this person in the world.
- Locatability. The person's home address, or at least other geographically locating information. This may including information that can be used to locate the person, like his or her school, sports teams, employer, region of the city, and so on that can be used with a phone book or other database to track the person to their doorstep. A RealName is not necessarily locatable, though truly locatable individuals almost always use their RealNames. The Internet provides some method to locate people, as described on NetworkDistance.
- Stereotype. aka Social categorization. Typing a person by common categories such as gender, age, class, employment, religion, political affiliation, or language even more esoteric categories like operating system, motorcycle brand, or magniloquent diction. The SemanticsOfIdentity play strongly here, particularly where one posts from (lowly AOL vs. elite Xerox PARC).
- IdentifyingBehaviour. Although SerialIdentity usually involves an explicit label or nym, this label is not always reliable. Nonetheless, some behaviour(s) of the individual may identify them, such as the time of day they post or their writing style.
- IdentifyingSignal. A person may present some signal that identifies them to the community, like a unique piece of information (a password, a significant originating domain name [e.g. posting to a Windows forum from microsoft.com]) or some skill that only a member of the community might have (such as hacking into news:alt.hackers.moderated).
Note that techniques of PersonalIdentification don't work when they are secondary to the main transaction. For instance, [credit card signatures] don't mean anything since the clerk taking the receipt is not the one approving the transaction, only the credit card company.
Donath, Judith S. (1999). Identity and deception in the virtual community. In M. A. Smith and P. Kollock (eds.), Communities in cyberspace. (pp. 29–59) London: Routledge.
Marx, G. T. (1999). What's in a name? Some Reflections on the sociology of anonymity. The Information Society 15(2), 99-112.
CreditCards? (recently Visa cards) are now being protected with PassWords?, so signatures are only one layer of the security 'onion'. Also, CitiBank? has for several years, offered a Card that has your picture in the plastic.
That being said:
- I do not sign my high-limit cards (I have insisted that the limit on all of my cards (of which I have as few as possible, and only more than 2 for the convenience of company accountants) be reduced to not more than $5,000.
- Instead I write on them OnlyValidWithPictureId?.
- If I know I am going to need more than the limit of a card, I generally over-pay it for that period. This is rare thought. The one time I bought a car this way, the dealer screamed because they get charged a % of the transaction.
- In a different context, I have scans of my passport, stored Canada Post's ister company Epost site, in a 'hashed' message confirming that the postmaster has recognized me, my passport, picture and signature. Since almost all the world's postal authorities have the right to 'recognize' an individual, this has been very useful, regardless of where I am, as long as I can get to a personal computer (and install 128 bit encryption (if its not already there)).
All of this, of course, has a direct bearing on Trust, RightToVote, WikiPrivacy, etc ... as I am hoping to demonstrate more fully throughout this year. -- HansWobbe