Friday, November 05, 2010

Are Social Networks the new Digital Identity?


Digital Identity is one of the Holy Grails of out time. Back in 2007 I was wondering and blogging about it. It was a valid question, but the answer I found at that time is (at least in the short term) being prooved wrong. I thought that more traditional identification ways (such as institutional national and international digital ids) would be eventually needed for the net. Only in the comments area of that blog post there is a glimpse of vision: "Because the net is a new media new solutions might arise" ... and they certainly did!

We're witnessing an emergent property of social networks: the Social Identity is becoming the new Digital Identity.

Let's see how social networks play a determinant role on three key aspects of Digital Identity:

1. Login connection. Facebook/Google/Yahoo/Twitter connect is increasingly the "de facto" login for websites and mobile apps (Google and Facebook on the top of the chart).

2. Persona search. Google anybody's name and when it comes to personal information social networks such as Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn will become one of the main sources (depending on privacy settings).

3. Personal connection. If you meet someone in real life or via the net, and you're attempting to connect with them in a personal or professional level chances are you will be looking for them in Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn.

4. Contact Information. In the past if you wanted to give someone your contact information you probably would give them your phone number or your email. Nowadays, in a tendency that might over time be replacing personal cards, you just tell people friend me on Facebook, or follow me on twitter, or connect to me in LinkedIn.

One of the main issues with Digital Identity is Authenticity, and Social Networks have intrinsically built an authenticity mechanism: your social connections and social activity!

Of course Social Networks are also subject to identity fraud and false identities but it should be possible to detect and fix these within the Networks themselves.

I propose that Social Networks should provide an Authenticity Index (SNAI) to each person. The purpose of the SNAI is to determine the likability of a person to correspond with a real world physical person.

The SNAI of each person could be calculated based on the addition of the following factors:

1. The aggregated SNAI of their connections. This is the simplest one. For each connection I have my SNAI would increase proportionally (or on an scalated way) to the SNAI of the connection. If I have connections that have a higher SNAI that will increment my SNAI in turn.
2. The aggregated in-network level of activity weighted by their interacting connections' SNAIs. This factor is an attempt to measure and pound the person's interaction with their connections. Reciprocal Interactions between people are a factor to increase the person's SNAIs. In this case the weighted SNAI of the contacts the person interacts is a factor too in an attempt to prevent farmed activity that would provide fake rankings.
3. The aggregated out-of-network level of activity weighted by the organization's connections' combined SNAIs. This factor is included in an attempt to allow people to choose their preferred networks as far as activity and still reflect that activity across the networks. In this case the weight of the organization combined SNAI is a factor too in an attempt to prevent farmed organizations that would provide fake rankings.

I now, it is a very recursive algorithm that could easily get into a deadlock. I'd try starting with everybody's SNAI being 1, always taking the last iteration SNAIs in any calculation and build it up with multiple iterations and some people's SNAI's should be incrementing greatly while other's will remain pretty low. After a few iterations most people should reflect their authenthicity or their "fakeness". It obviously should be scoped and refined but as a start ...

Facebook seems to be the company that would be in the best position in the market today to implement something like this and that would place them at the core of the Digital Identity solution.