Subject Level

When I’m Not Me

Photo of blocks that say "this is who I am"

Okay, so, this morning over my morning coffee I was trying to send a photo from my phone to my computer via text message. I’m not sure why Android and iOS can’t speak directly to each other, but that’s a question for another day. Looking at my contact information it got me contemplating the following question… Why is my contact entry for me  in my phone’s contact app showing up as “Laura (My Daughter)”?

I mean, I certainly am Laura, but I’m not “my daughter” last I checked. Fortunately, this mystery wasn’t hard to figure out. I recently started managing some of my mother’s digital accounts, including her email. And with the email, came the list of her contacts. As a result, I’ve been using my phone for (yet) another persona. In addition to the Me-as-Me personas, I now also had the Me-as-the-Manager-of-My-Mom’s-Accounts persona.

Now, I know how tricky this can be, so I had meticulously kept these personas separate using all of the techniques available to me. BUT, I secured an adorable new phone, and WHAM! all of that hard work went down the drain. My new phone may be cute, but it ain’t too smart when it comes to personas. So, it “helpfully” put all of the contacts together from the six email accounts that I manage, including those from work and my mother’s. AND, since my mother’s account was the last one to join the fray, I guess it decided that because it was the most recent one added, it should be added to my contact list, AND must be the one that was most up to date. Wrong and wrong.

We all have different personas

Maybe you’re not managing a parent’s email, but I’m willing to bet that you are still managing multiple digital personas. (And, if you’re not, you may consider doing so by the time you finish reading this series of posts!) Your personas may include:

  • You as a student where you learned cool things (and maybe did things that only students can get away with!)
  • You as an employee at a place where your values didn’t align with those of the organization
  • You as  an employee at a place where you loved your work and the people you worked with
  • You as volunteer at an organization that will save the world
  • And, you as a friend… sibling… family member…

Don’t get me wrong – these are all YOU! But, the personas exist in parallel universes. (No, I’m not talking about #spiderverse!) You talk about different things when you’re assuming each persona – you may behave differently, wear different clothes, and maybe even speak a different language. Keeping these personas separate in real life is pretty straightforward (unless you’re starring in a romantic comedy), but once you put them into the digital world, there needs to be structures and policies to help you keep these personas separate.

Congratulations, you’ve now entered the realm of digital identity.

Hardware separation

Maybe you work for a company that provides a computer or phone to you, and instructs you to use it only for work purposes. They may further warn you that your activity when using these devices (hardware) can and will be subject to monitoring. This is a not-too-uncommon way for companies to provide clarity for the claim they hold on the personas you assume while working for the organization. If owned by a larger organization, devices like these will contain tools and policy enforcers that are both designed to ensure that the company information housed on the device is secure, and also to ensure that anyone using the device is doing so in a way that is consistent with the company’s policies.

In general, this is a good thing. The company is taking the responsibility and initiative to ensure that company information is safe, secure, and accessible… for and by the company. But, what happens when you use your company computer to book your next doctor’s appointment? Or the cutie at the coffee shop that you just met sends you a text on your work cell phone? (After all, that’s the one you check first during the day!) In these cases, you may have switched to thinking of yourself in a non-work persona, but the device hardware is unlikely to be switching persona contexts with you; rather your computer and cell phone are firmly in your you-at-work persona. This can lead to some awkward side effects. Who wants their boss asking them what Dr. None of Your Business’s website has to do with the upcoming project report!? Even Hillary uses two separate phones now.

Oh look. You’re back in the realm of digital identity

Software separation

The same goes for software. Software separation of personas will allow you to be all the versions of you in one glorious device… Well, sort of. There is the tedious process of switching between them. If you have more than one Instagram, Twitter, or any other type of account as I do, I’m sure you have had at least one near-miss (or total fail) by posting content from the wrong account. (please say that I’m not the only one!)

Even if you are an expert account switcher, there are other things to contemplate. While you may be working hard to keep your personas separate, other players may have great interest in trying to stitch the many facets of you back together again. For example, you may use Facebook mainly to keep in touch with a group you hung out with in college, Instagram to share photos with family, and WhatsApp to chat with close friends. It feels like you’re keeping things separate. But consider that all three of these tools are owned by the same company and that this said company may use data from your interactions to build a non-persona delineated view of you. Armed with this information, things that you shared with your more trusted audiences might be leveraged to influence your behavior when you’re assuming a persona where you might be more cautious. Developing ways to enforce true separation here is something that digital identity professionals think about every day.

Geez… does this realm of digital identity ever end?!


Ugh – the digital world makes me have to be so SPECIFIC ABOUT EVERYTHING! It’s not possible to put on a hat and some sunglasses to become anonymous citizen #1. And, even when you want to be known, keeping your personas separate is a grand task that can’t be overstated. Keep an eye out for other posts and an Identity Flash Mob event as we dig into these challenges and how you stay on top of them.

Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash; Derivative by Laura Paglione

Posted by Laura Paglione in Personas, Mosh Pit, 0 comments
The Metaverse: A Parallel Dimension

The Metaverse: A Parallel Dimension

A few weeks ago, my mother, a lovely woman who really loves cruise ships and social media, called and asked: “So, what is this metaverse thing?” 

Is there a single media site that isn’t talking about the wonder, glory, and confusion that is the metaverse? Companies like Meta (aka, Facebook) are putting BILLIONS of dollars into their interpretation of it. Alphabet (parent company of Google) is, too. Across the board, there’s a lot of money floating into an idea that hasn’t truly been defined yet.

The best definition I have for you? 

The metaverse is almost like a parallel dimension—it blurs the lines between the physical world that you and I know and the virtual world…like artificial reality and cryptocurrency. 

Ultimately, the idea of the metaverse isn’t about a NEW technology or platform, though that might end up being part of it. It’s about how people interact with the digital world we already know.

The idea of blurring the boundaries between the virtual and the physical isn’t new. Second Life is a multimedia platform that has lived this idea since well before “metaverse” was used as a word outside of science fiction (it was first mentioned in the sci-fi novel Snow Crash in the early 90s!). The problem Second Life had when it started back in 2003, though, was that the technology wasn’t available to support the vision. 

But, that was nearly 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, when Apple was just launching the iTunes store. Google hadn’t started trading on the stock market (that didn’t happen until 2004). Facebook wasn’t even a thing. AND, most critically for this conversation, the fastest broadband Internet speeds in 2003 were around 500 kilobits per second (kbs) for downloads, as compared to 1000 megabits per second (Mbps) today. (Just to throw in some math, 1 megabit equals 1000 kilobits. So, yeah, Internet speeds are sooooooooo much faster today!)

For people who have access to the Internet today (and remember, a third of the world does not fall in that category), this metaverse thing has a lot of potential. Some of that potential is fantastic: experience new cultures, see the world from new perspectives, try on jeans at home without having to wait for them to physically arrive, yay! 

The metaverse is almost like a parallel dimension—it blurs the lines between the physical world that you and I know and the virtual world…like artificial reality and cryptocurrency. 

But what about the fact that there will be greater difficulty in protecting personal privacy and more opportunities for cyberbullying, adding to the digital divide? Either way, the potential for both good and bad is there, and all it needs is people to take the idea and run with it, defining the details as they go.

If I were Queen of the Universe (which I’m not, but I’ve got my tiara ready), the big companies that are trying to win the race to BE the source of the metaverse would focus instead on HOW to make their metaverse ‘neighborhood’ interact with other metaverse hosts. Which may sound simple, but if you’ve ever played a computer game with online stores, imagine trying to use Game A’s credits in Game B’s store. At least today, that’s just not going to work. Could it in the future? Sure. It happened with the Internet. Email flows whether you’re using Outlook or Gmail or AOL. Websites can be viewed from completely unrelated browsers; with some exceptions, you can surf the web whether you’re using Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Brave, Opera. So, can new protocols be developed that would allow metaverse functionality to work across platforms? Absolutely. We’re just not there yet. 

So, what is the metaverse? It’s an idea, currently being explored by lots of different people and organizations, to blend the digital world with the physical world. The idea as it stands today is pretty far ahead of what’s currently possible. We’re a lot closer, though, than we were twenty years ago.

Photo by julien Tromeur on Unsplash

Posted by heather in Web3, Mosh Pit, 0 comments
So, About Those NFTs…

So, About Those NFTs…

NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, are almost as popular to talk about as cryptocurrency these days! But where crypto has at least some analogy to the physical world (it’s all about the forms money can take), NFTs are an entirely different kettle of (virtual) fish. NFTs are about establishing a virtual asset that is unique in and of itself and has no interchangeable equivalent.

Coming back to one of my favorite resources, Investopedia, they say:

“Non-fungible tokens or NFTs are cryptographic assets on a blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from each other. Unlike cryptocurrencies, they cannot be traded or exchanged at equivalency. This differs from fungible tokens like cryptocurrencies, which are identical to each other and, therefore, can be used as a medium for commercial transactions.”

A great definition, but that’s only if you know what “cryptographic asset,” “blockchain,” “fungible,” and “cryptocurrencies” mean. Let’s start there.

  • Cryptographic asset: A digitally expressed piece of information that uses cryptography such that it cannot be copied or duplicated
  • Blockchain: A technology in many ways like a database that has pieces of itself distributed across the internet that cryptocurrencies use to support their claim of being uber-secure and highly resistant to fraud.
  • Fungible: This basically means mutually interchangeable with another item. A dollar bill is a fungible asset—any one modern dollar bill (or bitcoin) is completely interchangeable with another modern dollar bill (or bitcoin).
  • Cryptocurrency: See more about this in our previous blog post. We describe crypto “as defined by Investopedia … is “a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend.”

Back to what that means for an NFT: an NFT is a unique digital record for an object. You can buy or sell the NFT, but you can’t make duplicates of it, nor can you change it. And if you do buy or sell it, the original record gets a note that the exchange happened. Every future exchange adds another note, thus keeping the full record of everything that’s happened to that unique digital record.

The technology that enables this is called a blockchain, which as described above is a very special kind of technology that has no single, centralized “home” where all the data is ultimately stored. Blockchains are (often) decentralized, and everyone who engages with that blockchain is part of the process to validate the addition of any new information (or block) to the chain.

Now let’s talk a bit more about what you can do with an NFT. One popular use case is that of artists. Artists create things, but once their thing is sold (and sometimes even before that), they lose all control over that asset. If the asset is resold, the original artist usually doesn’t see any commission. An NFT can serve as a receipt that makes sure that every future transaction gives the artist some additional compensation for their creation. This is a potential game-changer for artists, but it’s not perfect. Here’s where we touch on some of the biggest misunderstandings in the NFT world:

The NFT is the receipt. It is not necessarily the actual item. Someone can create an NFT for a digital or physical object; that does not necessarily give the purchaser the right to have and hold that object. They may just have some percentage of the object or, in more nefarious situations, they may have been sold something the creator of the NFT has no right to actually sell. And for digital objects, assigning the object an NFT does not mean that all copies of that object are magically associated with that NFT.

Think of it this way. You have a photo on your phone that you received fantastic feedback on from your friends when you posted it to Instagram. You decide you want to make it into an NFT so you can sell it. You can do that … but all those copies already out there, which are visually indistinguishable from the original, are not protected. Don’t confuse an NFT with copyright!

That said, you may still have questions. After all, SURELY something that has net a person $3 million US dollars (way to go, Jack Dorsey of Twitter) must be something big! Right? Well, to be honest, I can’t explain that. The problem content creators like artists have when it comes to being fairly compensated for what they do is a problem. And if the world were a fair and reasonable place where NFTs would magically make the assets the NFT provides a receipt for somehow different (like different in appearance, or different in how people might see them online) then maybe this would justify the NFT craze.

The NFT is the receipt. It is not necessarily the actual item. Someone can create an NFT for a digital or physical object; that does not necessarily give the purchaser the right to have and hold that object.

Alas, the world is not a fair and reasonable place. Today’s use of NFTs often enters into the realm of the absurd. What many people are hoping for, however, is that NFTs will provide a powerful mechanism in the world of Web 3 to encourage more content creation with fair and enforceable concepts of ownership and compensation. 

If you’d like to watch a particularly entertaining skit on NFTs, Saturday Night Live recorded a fun session on it. If, however, you’ve got time and want a really deep dive into a skeptic’s view of NFTs, there’s a two-hour video on YouTube for you. Still, never let it be said that there aren’t some really strong voices out there in favor of NFTs: read about Animoca’s success in the NFT economy.

And if what you’d really like to do is to start investing now, well, as ya like. You might want to talk to your financial advisor.

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

Posted by heather in Web3, Line Dancing

Cryptocurrency: Creepy…Or Awesome?

Crypto. Blockchain. Digital Currency. Bitcoin. From the front page of the New York Times to Reddit posts, lots of terms are floating around that most people know have _something_ to do with money and tech, but they aren’t quite sure of the details. And, given the host of ads that ran in this year’s Super Bowl, people are bound to become even more crypto-curious.

If you are one of them, this article is for you. We’ll start with a list of some of the more common words used in the media, and then talk about what this all actually means for the world today.

  • Crypto used to be (and still is in some circles) short for cryptography, the study of making communications between two parties absolutely secure (there’s usually a lot of math involved). But these days, crypto is almost always about cryptocurrency.
  • Cryptocurrency, as defined by Investopedia (great resource if you’re not already familiar with it), is “a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend.”
  • Digital Currency, coming back again to Investopedia, is “a form of currency that is available only in digital or electronic form. It is also called digital money, electronic money, electronic currency, or cybercash.” Some organizations in this space insist that there is a difference between digital currency and cryptocurrency, saying the former has national backing in the same way that governments back the euro, the dollar, the peso, and so on. They see the latter as outside any government backing, so you’re on your own if you invest in the cryptocurrency space.
  • Bitcoin is one expression of cryptocurrency, and is currently the one with the biggest market share in the crypto space. 
  • Ethereum is another big name you might hear, and it is a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, holding quite a bit of the market share itself.
  • Blockchain is not a cryptocurrency. It is a technology like a database is a technology, though in this case it is a technology that cryptocurrencies use to support their claim of being uber-secure and highly resistant to fraud.

So now you have some basic terms, and for the sake of this article, I’m going to hold that  “cryptocurrency” includes digital currency backed by governments and cryptocurrency backed by anyone else.

Cryptocurrency is definitely a concept that’s making waves in the world, and more than with just the geeky crowd. There are entire countries getting involved in this space and making it a financial reality to be reckoned with. n an individual level, popular financial management companies like Betterment and Personal Capital are offering cryptocurrency options as part of their investment portfolios. Crypto is _everywhere_.  

OK, fine, but is it really REAL? I mean, how real can it be if it isn’t a physical asset, and it isn’t backed by gold, silver, or a government’s promise? Well, let me ask you a different question: Why do you believe the piece of paper in your (physical) wallet has value? Probably because when enough people believe in the value of crypto, the perception becomes a reality. When people stop believing in it, you have something like a bank run, and if you get enough of those, you can entirely trash a nation’s (or even a world’s) economy (there’s some interesting research regarding bank runs and the Great Depression, if you’re interested in some ‘light’ reading on economic theory—ha!).

Ironically enough, cryptocurrency started to take off as a popular topic of discussion around 2017, as the first big ‘bubble’ formed and then burst. Bitcoin dropped 65% of its value in 2018 to about $3500 per bitcoin, and everyone was talking about it. Enough people talked about it that they (apparently) got very excited about buying these new, speculative thingies while they were on “sale” due to the crash. Now Bitcoin is back up to being worth about $44,340. It’s an amazing rollercoaster of speculation.

As with all market speculations, you’re going to find people who believe Very Strongly in the thing they are buying. You’re also going to find people who believe Equally Strongly that it’s a scam. And, you know what? They’re both going to be right. Cryptocurrency has value as long as people believe that it does. Enough people currently believe this is the future of the finance industry that they’ve convinced governments to ride the wave, providing further apparent legitimacy to the idea. And, like every market-driven enterprise, the value will go up and down in cycles—it is no more a “sure thing” for investment than gold. (Example: Do a search on “can never go wrong buying gold” and you’ll find as many articles suggesting “never do it” as you will articles about how great of an idea it is to buy gold.) If you’d really like to geek out on the technology behind cryptocurrency and how some people argue that it’s better than humans at determining monetary policy, this article in Wired might be for you. 

Finally, just a note, this article is to offer you a quick reference for the key terms you’ll see in articles about the crypto space. It is not financial advice; your acceptance of risk in your investments is all up to you. But as with everything covered by IFM, we hope you’ll find our information helpful in making informed decisions!

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Posted by heather in Web3, Line Dancing, 0 comments
Web3 – It’s About Disruption

Web3 – It’s About Disruption

To understand Web 3, it helps if you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference. Not because that book has anything to do with the web, but more because it gets into market disruption and why it happens. In a nutshell, innovation gets things started, then adoption happens … and happens … and happens … until it is just a BFD and there isn’t room to innovate anymore, and so people decide “I can do this simpler/better/faster!”  They abandon the big, stable thing in order to get back to innovation. And then the innovation is successful, and adoption happens … and happens … You get the idea. 

Web 3 is like that. It’s a reaction to the fact that Web 2.0 is this thing driven by a few successful, ginormous platforms, leaving little room for out-of-the-box innovation. The market is pretty darn stable compared to where it was even a decade ago. And there are people out there who desperately want to innovate. It’s cool and fun, after all. And maybe, if they innovate well enough, their ideas will grow and grow and grow, and they will be wildly successful and everyone will throw money at them. 

There’s nothing wrong with a desire to innovate and to break a market apart to support new ideas and technologies. The main challenge with understanding Web 3, though, is that the marketing of what it means to be Web 3 doesn’t match the reality of what people want or can be expected to do. So let’s take a step back and look at what the web was initially, what it is today, and what Web 3 promoters say it’s going to be.

In the beginning, there were a few computers networked together, starting the Internet. It looked a lot like this:


Just a couple of computers, connected to a couple of other computers, mostly with black screens and green text. The thing that became the Internet (the Arpanet) started in 1969, and it looked a lot like that for a while. When the World Wide Web kicked off in 1993, it was based on that model where people were in charge of their own computers and everyone was able to share content everywhere. This is called a “decentralized” environment. No one in charge, cats and dogs living together, it was glorious anarchy. OK, maybe not anarchy. But there really wasn’t anyone particularly “in charge” leaving a greenfield ready and waiting for innovative ideas to happen. 

Here’s the thing, though. My mom does not want to do all the stuff on a computer that’s needed for it to share content like that. She’s not going to run server software (and make sure it’s patched). She’s not going to set up a dashboard so she can clearly see and manage who has been allowed the different bits of information about her.  But that’s ok! Innovation happens, and suddenly there are companies willing to make it easy. To do the value-add of hosting a computer for you. Heck, they’ll do EVERYTHING for you, so all you have to do is throw money at them, upload your cat photos, and you’re good to go! There used to be a lot of those companies, but a few became really, really successful. And a trend towards fewer, bigger companies is centralization and that’s at the heart of Web 2.0.

So if a decentralized model was Web 1, and centralized was Web 2, then what’s left for Web 3? Well, here’s where it gets a little complicated. 

The promise of Web 3 as made by the people motivated to make it a thing is the promise of decentralization. It’s power to the people! Innovation in everything from finance to personal records to digital identity! People will be able to take control of their own online experiences in ways that haven’t been done before thanks to new technologies like blockchains. Think of it as a reaction against “you’re not the consumer, you’re the product” as companies sell information about you to other companies, leaving you with advertisements and them with money. If you have ultimate control over your own information, then the world can only be a safer, more personally profitable place.

Doesn’t that sound lovely?

Now step back from the lovely picture and think for a minute about what that actually requires. Let’s start with the “you control all the information about you” (like your name, your phone number, your email address, your age, your location, your preference for cats instead of dogs, your sexual orientation, your political orientation, and so on and so on and so on) and therefore who gets to see it. That means you need to keep on top of that information, sometimes making sure it’s verified by a third-party (e.g., a government agency). You need to respond to every request for that information by companies that are offering you stuff. You not only have power, you have _responsibility_.

Let’s be honest, that gets really tedious. It gets worse if part of the power means running stuff on your own computer, which, back in Web 1, used to be pretty easy. It’s not like computers went anywhere. They were these big things that plugged into the wall 24/7. Now, ‘running stuff on your computer’ could mean your phone, or your tablet, or your laptop, or your desktop, or even your watch. 

And here’s where innovation tends to strike. There are people out there who, for a small (or medium, or large) fee, would be more than happy to make this easier for you. To build a platform that would take care of lots of the details for you so you could get back to your cat photos. At first, there will be lots of little platforms, all trying to differentiate themselves with various value-add features to the underlying technology to improve their own adoption. And adoption will happen … and happen … and happen… until the most adopted wins, innovation is stifled, and how on earth did we get back to this part of the cycle again? What you’ll have is some strange combination of centralized platforms supporting decentralized technologies, combining the best and worst of Web 1 and Web 2.

Since we’re at that point in the cycle where we have really big, successful players AND a really solid attempt at disruption by lots of innovative little players, this is a space that’s filled more with hype and ideals than solid services and market definition. It’s different from the same point in the cycle that was the difference between Web 1 and Web 2 because there are so many more people online today and computers are capable of so much more. People like my mom have expectations about what her user experience is going to be like online, and not a whole lot of patience with technical details. There are people who are ‘born digital’ that are more comfortable with technology and yet have an expectation that much of the hard work of offering online services will just be … taken care of. So, yeah. It’s not the same world as the first major shift in the nature of the web. It’s a world where literally everything is promised, and anything can happen, but the thoughtful human will take a moment and really think about the implications of the hype before they dive in.

If you’d like to dive a little deeper into thoughts on Web3, you might find Fabio Manganiello’s blog post “Web 3.0 and the undeliverable promise of decentralization” and Moxie Rosenfeld’s (more commonly known as Moxie Marlinspike) “My first impressions of web3” interesting, though a bit more technical. 

Posted by heather in Web3, Mosh Pit, 0 comments
But How Did They Know? How Ad-Tracking Actually Works

But How Did They Know? How Ad-Tracking Actually Works

Now you’re probably thinking, “how on earth did all those sites know about my interests like that? And what else is using that information about me as I surf the web?” 

Friends, here’s what you—and your online identity—need to know.

It involves (among other things) cookies, decorations, and auctions.

First, let’s talk about cookies! …

Not all cookies are bad—nothing is ever quite that simple in the world of technology. They also make things like logging into a site work so that you don’t have to login again… and again… and again… every time you go to a different part of that site.

What can you do about this? Every web browser has a place in their preferences that lets you turn off cookies. If you like, you can do that, but be warned. You’re paying for your privacy by giving up some of the whizbang features on the web. You will have sites that say “we won’t work if you don’t feed us cookies!!!” 

Ah, cookie crumbs: They’ll let a tracker follow you everywhere, but they’ll also make logging in a lot easier.

Verse 2: Making Web Addresses Attractive… for Advertisers

OK, so maybe you have put your browser on a diet and are willing to pay the price of privacy. Lots of people who really don’t want that kind of tracking to happen do that. But cookies aren’t the only way to track a user. There is also something called “link decoration.” This lets a site learn what brought you to them. Was it an email campaign? A content aggregator like Pocket?

Here’s what link decoration looks like: 

So, that link tells the Seattle Times that I visited their site because I followed a link from their Morning Brief email list, and that I am an active subscriber. They’ll be able to tick their own marketing box to say “Yep, looks like email campaigns work with this one! Let’s do more of those!”

Just like cookies, though, link decoration is used for more than just tracking. It has important, legitimate uses for some pretty common authentication services, too. But wait, there’s more! This feature is also used for lots of search functionality.

Link decoration: It’s about letting the websites know what worked to get you in the door so they can do more of that, but it’s for stuff you need, too.

Verse 3: The Advertising Auctioneer

And now to blow your mind a little bit, let’s look just a bit into how specific ads from specific companies are put in front of you. This is the magic of something called Real-Time Bidding! This only works because the Internet is blindingly fast for most, especially compared to the days of old-school dial-up connections. The activity goes like this: 

  1. You visit a website. 
  2. The website has a space on it for an ad. 
  3. That space includes a piece of code that says “go to this ad exchange network, and take information about this website AND information about the user (either via cookies, or any uniquely identifying information about their web browser and how it’s configured) AND the physical location of the user ‘cause their phone knows that and send it all to the ad exchange.” 
  4. The ad exchange has a list of advertisers who have preloaded information on what they’re willing to pay to promote their ad based on specific criteria about the website, the user, and even who the user is physically close to. 
  5. The ad exchanger immediately figures out who wins the auction and returns the winning ad to be embedded in the website. 

All this takes milliseconds

Real-time bidding: the Internet is fast enough to stream movies… and to sell targeted ads in real time.

Coda (wrap up)

Here’s the thing. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t care if the advertisements I see on the web relate to things I might actually be interested in. I’d rather see ads about cats than I would about diapers, for instance. (I really hope I don’t start seeing ads about diapers for cats now.) However, I do very much care if my information is used to target me for hacker attempts or political manipulation. The techniques used by legitimate advertisers to target ads are exactly the same as other groups might use for more nefarious purposes. The technology can’t tell the difference. So, because I care more about the possibility of bad actors than I do whether I see diapers for cats, I’m going to care a lot about how to protect my privacy on the web. 

If you’re reading this and vigorously nodding your head, here’s how to take back control of your online privacy. 

  1. Look at the configuration settings for all the web browsers you use and really think about the privacy and security options.
  2. Think twice about clicking on a link in an email. Instead, go ahead and type in the direct web address instead of letting a link take you there.
  3. Use a private or incognito window when you can so it clears out any cookies or history at the end of the day when you close the browser window. (And close that browser window Every. Single. Day.)

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Posted by heather in Surveillance, Line Dancing
Wait, You Mean Digital Identity is an Entire Industry?

Wait, You Mean Digital Identity is an Entire Industry?

So there I am, enjoying my first neighborhood barbeque in YEARS, chatting with one of my neighbors about what it is I do.

Me: “I work with people and organizations developing standards for how to use digital identity.”

Them: “I have no idea what that means.”

Me: …

Hmmm. Now if that wasn’t a trigger to try and educate this poor soul who was just trying to enjoy a veggie burger and a beer, I don’t know what is! Because digital identity is an AWESOME field. Seriously, an understanding of digital identity opens doors to careers in… just about everything: gaming, education, health care, government, commerce, enterprise, research… The list goes on forever.

But I totally get why they answered that way. 

Digital identity may be part of everything online, but so are a lot of other technical bits and pieces that make the Internet function. After all, there are only so many hours in the day to learn ALL. THE. THINGS. Still, digital identity has the unique characteristic of being about YOU. So not only is this a career field with limitless possibilities for you, it’s also important for you to know what happens with data about you when surfing the web.

So, let’s take a quick look at a few ways that digital identity impacts different industry sectors, and most importantly, how digital identity impacts you. 

Digital Identity and… Research

The expansion of the universe aside—even though that’s still hotly debated by scientists—there is no such thing as limitless growth. Whether you’re considering the question of how to continue to sustain life on Earth, how to sustain the needs of a business, or how to sustain your own lifestyle, you have to understand what types of resources you have and what resources you’re spending. And that understanding requires data. Lots and lots of data.

Here’s the thing about data, though. Who should have access to it? At a personal level, you probably don’t want everyone to have access to your financial information and budget, but you probably do want people to know what pronouns you prefer. You don’t want *everyone* to have access everything, but you do want *some people* to have access to some things. And you need to be able to specify who gets access to what.

Congratulations, you’ve now entered the realm of digital identity

Digital Identity and… Education

OK, so let’s switch over to education. The educational sector is about students, faculty, and staff. It’s about parents, school boards, and support groups. It’s about teaching and learning specific things, but it’s also about students needing access to online learning materials. Even if your school doesn’t support remote learning, though, you may still need access to online books and journals that your school has paid for you to have access to.

Or, let’s get fancy again! Maybe you need to switch schools, or you’ve applied to college. You and your current school need to transfer your transcripts digitally. That means there needs to be systems that identify who is a student at a given school. They need to also identify who is a teacher. Perhaps the school needs to create accounts for someone to pay the bills. Different types of people need to be identified so they can be offered only as much access as they need, and nothing more.

Oh look. You’re back in the realm of digital identity—knowing who’s who, and using that to decide who should have access to online information.

Digital Identity and… Commerce

But wait, there’s more! Even if you’re done with school, don’t have a budget to speak of, and you aren’t a scientist to worry about big data sets, you probably still buy things online. And it’s really disturbing if someone else accesses whatever accounts you have and buys things with your information. To make it worse, now the bad guys stole data about you, created new accounts with new online services that look legit, but mess with your credit score or spend your money.

Or, let’s look at it another way. In the United States alone, several organizations that study this kind of thing suggest that nearly $900 BILLION was spent online in 2020 alone (Google it, you’ll see). This is what’s called a lucrative field and EVERYONE wants a piece of that pie. They want to target information so it has the most impact on you, because that impact means you spend money with them, or you support their cause, or you follow them to a website equivalent of a back alley where they can steal your information. Protecting against fraud is crazy important, and managing digital identity is a critical piece of that.

Geez… does this realm of digital identity ever end?!

Wrap up

OK, so at this point you’ve probably got the idea. If there is any question of needing to control or restrict online access to ANYTHING, then you’re talking about a site, service, or industry that depends on digital identity. To break that down even further, if you have to login, there is something on the other side that’s handling digital identity. Once you understand that, you can think a bit more about what that means for your personal identity, and it also gives you a target to build a career that spans everything.

Posted by heather in Mosh Pit, 0 comments
What is Digital Identity (and why should you care)?

What is Digital Identity (and why should you care)?

If you’re reading this, you have a digital identity. 

And depending on how you think about it, you probably have more than one! After all, you have your social media accounts—those are all digital identities of yourself, right? And then you have your school or workplace accounts—those are digital identities, too. 

Oh! And let’s not forget any accounts with your bank, credit card, doctor’s office, any online shopping you do…oy, just typing about it is stressing us out.

But that’s why we dance! Because let’s face it, the Internet is a rapidly changing landscape and sometimes the only way to stay sane is to dance through digital identity.

We’ll teach ya the steps. 😉

It’s All About Perspective

With a few exceptions, each service you use thinks of your account as uniquely you. Their responsibilities start and end with protecting the information you’ve given them about you. So, if you think about it from the perspective of the service provider, you have LOTS of different digital identities—aka different personas that apply in different situations. Think of it like the “work-life balance” thing people talk about (as if it was a split between two halves of you).

Anyway, the collection of personas is your full digital identity, and managing and protecting the collection of your personas is something only YOU can do.

But why would you want to? That’s easy. Because it’s how you protect yourself from fraudsters, stalkers, hackers, marketers, and anyone else who wants to control you, be you, or use you online. You really do NOT want to become a victim of Identity Theft—unless you do, which is a very interesting personal preference.


Let’s Take Control

What you can do in five minutes:

  1. Install a password manager. LastPass is really popular and super easy to use! You can learn more about other password managers here
  2. Install Authy or some other multi-factor authentication application. If you are running the new iPhone 15, there is a new built-in multifactor authentication service.  Just have the service installed and ready; we’ll talk about how to use it later. If Authy doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other options.

What you can do in thirty minutes:

  1. If you have an iPhone running iOS 14 or newer, check out your passwords (found in your settings) for any security alerts and change them if necessary (and add them to your password manager). It will tell you if you’re reusing passwords, or if your passwords have been found in some online hacker store for sale. Google’s Smart Lock does much the same thing for Android phones and Chrome browsers. There are lots of potentially useful security features there.
  2. As a bonus, as you change your passwords, check to see if any support multi-factor authentication (remember that Authy thing?). That means that the service will ask you for a little more information, maybe from an app like Authy or from information they send you in a text message. 

What you can do in an hour:

  1. Make sure all your systems are patched and your apps are up to date.
  2. Sign up with a service like Credit Karma and have it start watching your credit history and your account information for free. There are other services out there as well; check them out and decide what might work best for you!

We know you’re going to say it…

But It’s All SO Annoying!

Yes, all this security and management is really, really annoying! But trust us, it’s not nearly as annoying as recovering from identity theft. Allstate Insurance did a study and found it takes 100-200 hours—to put that into perspective, OVER SIX MONTHS—to recover from identity theft. According to Experian, a major credit agency, it can even take years. YEARS!

We said we’d dance, but we’re not up for spinning out of control here.

Wrap Up

So, what do you think? Can you pass the marshmallow test and do something now for better rewards (which in this case is the promise of less pain!) later? Of course you can! Identity Flash Mob is here to help you think through what’s possible, what’s practical, and how to make your digital identity as secure as YOU as you need it to be!

We hope to meet again on the dance floor. Until next time!  

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

Posted by heather in Mosh Pit, 0 comments