ICT, IoT and the future of online identity

When the world talks about identity, we presume the type that is borne with an alphabetic description or a Birth Certificate— a representation, of otherwise anonymous entities, with artificial measurements: an alphabet, a number, a digitus. Computer Aid International began facilitating online identity in 1997 and currently has an in-house effort to understand its users’ presence in cyberspace— just as we know our physical presence, there is this other identity just as much to know about, that fluid, non-tangible “magical spirit”, a ‘process’ represented by procedures enacted at the click of a mouse.  As identifiable people, we are “who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identification number or to one or more factors specific to [the] physical … identity”, Article 2(a) EU Directive 95/46/EC. Our ‘name’ is “the designation of a person” where designation is “a description or descriptive expression by which a person or thing is denoted without using the name”, 1st edition of Black’s Law.  The “essence of identity” is the “determination whether two references are to the same thing”, and with biometrics it is based on the “denotations of occurrences of symbols in a computational system”, William Kent, HP Labs. With the future of IoT running software for human existence, when we prove we are who we say we are, who is it that we say we are?

As an ICT NGO, Computer Aid facilitates global access with an average of 17000 network-enabled devices per year. Biometric implementations such as UNHCR’s RFP 2013 are important to ICT in converting digital identity into a record that can be digitally traced.  The digital divide has much been a subject of discussion; now, it is fully measurable. UNHCR deployment has capacity to pull-up a record from 10 million entries in 10 seconds, including its family composition.  The digital gap can be closed in that very same way— a countdown of which digital identities have access.

Digital identity through sensory devices is the new phase of digital divide, where accountability to close the gap becomes a matter of ‘on/off’ .  As well as ID4D, a new campaign now takes place in addition to identity evolution.  Computer Aid’s Chief Executive Keith Sonnet has been a speaker and a panelist at the London VSAT seeking for a standard for the provision of connectivity to Computer Aid’s devices.  In a project named after the Nyanja word "Zuba", which means "sun", the hardware is consolidated into a network inside a shipping container, solar powered and deployed to remote locations. It’s called ZubaBox— and the next container is planned to help the world’s most populous refugee camps in Sub-Saharan Africa get online. “Refugees see access to the Internet as that which can provide a skill set to get ahead in life and get one step further towards a brighter future”, says UNHCR’s Biometric Deployment Lead, Sam Jefferies. Computer Aid expects that as human identity becomes digital, the use of its ICT will increase significantly.

The efforts to know more about the existence in the digital are highlighted cross-sector. The main contact for the legal research in the EU framework projects on biometrics and identity, Els Kindt, writes in her published doctorate thesis, “the processing of biometric data interferes with the fundamental human right to respect for privacy”. A report by UNESCO in 2007 stated that “through biometrics, metadata can go beyond a person’s diverse digital personae to pinpoint an embodied person”, which ultimately makes us searcheable. If we as ‘things’ are denoted by our physical measurement, and the system has an algorithmic reference for the measurement, biometrics on a keyboard secures us no how but through trust that what we are typing is no-one else’s business— the reason secure digital identity systems come first. With the technical, legal and government leads to establish a common understanding of ‘who we say we are’, we further have cyberenvironment in design to contain the ‘us’.  The EyeHub white paper by an IoT vendor Flexeye proposes a Hub for digital entity hosting service. People here would in fact be software. With IoT entities representing 3-d things, technology is drawing a tangent to identity.