Reporters' Roundtable: Who owns your online identity?

Your identity can be stolen, but it can also, in some cases, be legally taken. So who really owns your online identity? Your social network? Your reputation? We discuss with experts Dick Hardt and Peter Kazanjy.

Today, we're talking about identity. You own your identity, right? That's why we talk about identity theft: Identity is clearly personal, and it can be stolen from us. But it can also, in some cases, be legally taken. If you work at a modern business and you create relationships with people during that employment, it can be argued that, if those relationships are work-related, your employer owns them. But if you create a rich social profile that supports your work, say on Facebook or Twitter, it can be unclear whose identity, persona, or reputation that is.

Meanwhile, Facebook, and to a lesser extent Google, are becoming de facto universal electronic identity providers. You can log in to many new Web sites with nothing but a Facebook ID. So does Facebook own our identity?

To discuss these topics, we've identified two experts:

Dick Hardt is a champion of what he calls Identity 2.0: a user-centric identity architecture. Previously he worked on OpenID and OAuth and championed identity work at Microsoft. Currently he's working on: an "Address Book 2.0" personal productivity assistant.

Peter Kazanjy is co-founder of Honestly.com. Formerly Unvarnished, Honestly.com is a professional reputation and peer review Web site, where people can rate others in both an authenticated yet anonymous way.

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Some of our discussion points

How has the idea of "who I am" as a working person changed in the past few years?

Discuss how these utilities impact work vs. personal identity:

  • Facebook
  • OpenID
  • Google & Microsoft services
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Smartphones and other highly personal hardware

What information can we take with us? What can we not?

As personal tech gets more personal, we're seeing more people use their own resources to get their jobs done: their own computers, phones, etc. What are the upsides and downsides of this?

Let's talk about reputation. Are we all free agents now? What does that mean for the way we deal with our relationships in work? And what does it mean for managers?

Peter: Reputation is almost a social good. When there's not a market for it, bad things happen. People who are amazing at what they do don't get recognition. Think about the great engineer, toiling away in a closet at Google, that Facebook would love to poach...and pay handsomely for it. Google doesn't want that information to float. But Facebook does, and certainly the engineer does! The flip is also true: in illiquid information market like this, people can stuff fake information--the proverbial "person who looks good on paper."

Discuss persistent online identity. Can/should users bring their own identity services to work? Why don't banks offer identity services?

How can employers deal with a more transparent and liquid market in identity, social graphs, and reputation?

Wrap-up
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