How long until our Facebook profile becomes our proof of ID?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have one super secure login & password to access all your private information?

Isn’t it frustrating to log in with various user names & passwords all the time? Multiple email accounts, online banking, eBay, Linkedin, Skype, loyalty programs, iGoogle, online supermarket, itunes, etc…. Ever wondered how you could make this much easier on yourself and access your personal data from all of the above, and more, with a single identification point? How far are we from a single chip that would carry all the information about an individual? And that ever happens how scary would it be?

Actually, the below Coca Cola campaign, clearly demonstrate that we are not that far away!

I have been investigating into this and thanks to some help from Joe Cinacotta Managing Director at Pixolüt Industries, I have discovered a new world of possibilities.

Here is my top line understanding of the solutions available:

Outside of specific SSO softwares, 2 main options could be the key to a unique log in & password. They are: OpenID and OpenAuth. Very similar names but very different features…

Openid-logo
Openid-protocol

If you wish to learn more, here is a really good read to understand the difference between OpenID and OpenAuth written by Michael Mahemoff 

Oauth-logo
Oauth-protocol

The OpenID protocol had been available since May 2005, more than 2 years earlier than OAuth Core 1.0. Even though it got support from the main digital platforms (Symantec, Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems, MySpace, Windows Live, Paypal…) it hasn’t been adopted by the end user as THE revolutionary identification system, which demonstrates the importance of the end user benefits since the combined force of all those platforms was at the time much greater than Facebook alone. With its Graph API, Facebook gave a massive push to OAuth, and in 2010, OAuth 2.0 became the lead identification standard.
In 2008, The New York Times said: “Instead of trying to hoard information about their users, the Internet companies (including Facebook, Google, MySpace and Twitter) all share at least some of that data so people do not have to enter the same identifying information again and again on different sites.” This is it! Facbeook has set itself in a monopoly situation with its Connect API.  

So, where to from here?

Facebook holds our “hard identity” (first name, last name, place & date of birth…). Information such as, colour of eyes, height… why not finger print identification (through mobile and computer devices) could be added to the current profile fields. After all, Facebook has already added a face recognition feature on pictures. Facebook also holds our “soft identity” (who we are friends with, our interests, what we like, where we are…). So with total control over the ‘social graph’ and its increasing critical mass Facebook might eventually find increasing pressure from governments to provide access to its information. We can easily imagine that governments will soon want to intervene. At some point, they might try to usurp control of the third party authentication business and that it ultimately it will become a government regulated industry (e.g. of applications: law enforcement, travel documents, welfare, medical data…). In the same trend, we can think that private and public sector will start to integrate their own systems with Facebook. Third party authentication will become the norm across all website and mobile experiences that connect individuals’ experiences. This is where a multitude of commercial application comes to mind: loyalty programs, retail applications, customer care, personalisation and prediction…

So has, OAuth 2.0 protocol brought us heaven or hell on earth?
How long until, this becomes a day to day reality… I am afraid, not as long as we think…

Marie Sornin

6 thoughts on “How long until our Facebook profile becomes our proof of ID?

  1. I remember hearing about the value of single sign on at an e-gov conference ten years ago when I was working for SAP. Even then it seemed close enough to touch… They were talking public key, assigned by government, as verified id…Completely agree about the usefulscary nature and the range of developments. I do wonder how facebook can start to verify user data, especially if usage is to extend into a public sector spaces with government funding, as that will really exacerbate that friction you noted between governments and FB, particularly in countries like China.I’m a big fan, and user of connect to authenticate and streamline sign-ups, but I’ll usually bump out of the process if it requires access to post to wall as part of the transaction. In order to see wider adoption, it would be good to see some control over what functionality from a pick list in the hands of a user, instead of the current all/nothing approach. I’d agree that the issue of control, both in terms of the users rights and governments authority, will be the things that defines reach and success of both the current platform and the idea as a whole.

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