Who are you, really?

This is not a rhetorical or philosophical question, but an internet question. One of the greatest things about the internet is its basic anonymity. The greatest weakness of the internet is its basic anonymity. Don’t misunderstand me, the internet is not even closely anonymous as many perceive it to be.

I recently received an email from Naymz, a place to “claim” your names on the internet, regarding the services of Trufina. Trufina is a website/service that seeks to be your identity clearinghouse. They seek to gather all your personae and provide 3RD party “authentication” so people are assured that it is you. You can even have them run a criminal background check on you so that you can present a clean record to an employer.

Immediately, some people are going to scream, “invasion of privacy!” Since you are the one giving up the information, it isn’t an invasion. “Don’t trust the man!” Frankly, since I would be the one providing the information, I trust them slightly more than the government (granted, that isn’t saying much). The government gathers a lot of information about me I wish they wouldn’t, and I don’t even know what information they actually have about me. I don’t know what is false, what is true, or what isn’t their business to know about me.

The advantage that a private corporate clearinghouse has is that as I would be the one providing the information, is that I know what they have. I, according to their website and privacy policy, can choose with whom to share based upon preset profiles. Companies that partner with Trufina would tell Trufina exactly what information they require for a transaction.

Trufina is not the only clearinghouse. There is OpenID. There is one being pushed by Sun. There was the (failed) Microsoft Passport, which is now primarily a Microsoft identity clearinghouse. For once, in Microsoft‘s case, they were actually thinking ahead, but too far ahead.

This will be needed in the future. For the internet to sooner become what it will become eventually, some sort of identity system (or multiple systems) will need to be in play. As larger and larger transactions are processed over the internet, identity verification will become crucial. The only way we will determine what form that takes is by participating in it, rather than moaning about it.

As to Trufina, I like what they offer. Their pricing is decent, but never provides a time line what your money buys for how long. Their About Us page leaves a lot to be desired. As you go digging you find more, but the key is to not make people dig to find basic information, like why I should trust them.

I’m going to wait a bit, yet. I know this is coming, hence my Naymz profile. There are a number of networking/social sites that verify based on connections, which in many ways is better. For one-time transactions or employment applications, I think Trufina and those that follow and preceded it will be the wave of the future.