The importance of regular people feeling heard and that the processes are broad and inclusive should not be underestimated. A trip to Marin last month made this particularly apparent to me. I stopped at a “groovy organic grocery store” to pick up a snack for the long ride I had ahead of me. Outside were two women with a table of stickers and literature about various progressive causes and issues. They had a sign on a chair saying “STOP THE SMART GRID”. I was interested what their concerns were. Why did they want to stop it. They were concerned about many things, but in particular the data collection from houses, the use of the data, who had the ability to see the data and what it would be used for.
Stakeholder Engagement with Dialogue and Deliberation
The NSTIC governance NOI highlights the government’s role should be in an ongoing way to protect people’s interests. I invited Tom Attlee to co-author this section with me because of his 10+ years of research into a whole range of inclusive citizen engagement processes. The Tao of Democracy is his book that looks at how the best of them effectively synthesize the people’s perspective on whether their interests are being protected well enough.
I worked with Tom Attlee in 2006 to explore which emerging electronic collaborative tools (blogs, wikis, online forums etc.) could be used to augment and complement proven deliberative processes that were developed before the web existed (chart in Appendix 6). They have proven very effective, but also expensive and labor intensive. Based on this work with Tom, I wrote a chapter in the Personal Democracy Forum book Rebooting America on how these methods could be used to gain democratic insight that is deeper then from voting or polling. (text Appendix 5)
Knowing what groups are in an ecosystem is a key first step but information sharing and coordination between organizations and communities who are participants in an ecosystem is key to making it real.
The purpose of Identity Commons is to support, facilitate, and promote the creation of an open identity layer for the Internet, one that maximizes control, convenience, and privacy for the individual while encouraging the development of healthy, interoperable communities.
- Self-Organization. Enable any working group to self-organize at any time, on any scale, in any form, around any activity consistent with the Purpose and Principles.
- Transparency. Fully and transparently disclose the Purpose and Principles of each working group, any requirement of participation, and any license or restriction of usage of its work product.
- Inclusion. Conduct deliberations and make decisions by bodies and methods that reasonably represent all relevant and affected parties.
- Empowerment. Vest authority, perform functions, and use resources in the smallest or most local part that includes all relevant and affected parties.
- Collaboration. Resolve conflict without resort to economic, legal, or other duress.
- Openness. Conduct, publish, and archive communications in a manner that facilitates open and trusted interactions within and across all working groups and the public Internet.
- Dogfooding. When feasible and appropriate, employ the work product of Identity Commons working groups to facilitate the operation and interaction of Identity Commons itself.
I have heard it said more than once by those seeking to develop tools and systems for this emerging identity ecosystem, that they wish there was just “one place” where it all could be found, where all the technology would be developed. Given the vast number of organizations, this is never going to be the case, but what we can facilitate is much more robust information sharing systems across technical standards development organizations and communities focused on solving key challenges for a real ecosystem. The NOI asks this question:
1.2. Are there broad, multi-sector examples of governance structures that match the scale of the steering group? If so, what makes them successful or unsuccessful? What challenges do they face?
Identity Commons was originally founded in 2001 by Owen Davis and Andrew Nelson to foster a user-centric identity layer of the web that the people “owned”. (They founded the organization partially in response to the formation of Liberty Alliance which was developing “open standards” for identity, but from a large enterprise perspective rather then a grassroots people’s perspective. They drew inspiration from Dee Hook who grew the the Visa network using innovative organization principles. They were active in the Planetwork Link Tank discussions (See Appendix 1) that lead to the writing of the ASN paper – an excerpt of this is in Appendix 2.)
In 2007 the communities gathered at the Internet Identity Workshop retained the purpose and principles of Identity Commons but transitioned to become a 501(c)6 organization linking and connecting efforts across a range of different communities and organizations. Groups working on issues touching on user-centric identity did not have to leave their respective standards body or academic institution to join. Totally independent organizations could also join and groups that had not yet formed as their own organization or subsection of another organization could also join.
The Scope of People
The vision of NSTIC touches all sectors of US society and extends beyond the US because of the international nature of cyberspace. The protocological (from Alexander Galloway’s Protocol: “The limits of a protocological system and the limits of possibility within that system are synonymous.”) landscape (the range of options enabled by the protocol stack choice) and policy frameworks must be very broad to meet the needs of US citizens and global netizens. Protocol is political because it shapes what is possible in the network (Appendix 11 goes into greater detail).
The number of individual stakeholders for systems of identity online stretches to everyone who uses network systems, and with there now being five billion phones on the planet, that is fast approaching every person on the planet. The diversity of the world population in terms of life experience is huge (see Appendix 3: People Diversity) . The vast majority of people are not privileged in one or more aspects of life and the freedom to participate in cyberspace with anonymous and psuedonymous identifiers that enable them to transcend or set aside “real world identity” is a key freedom that must be maintained even as more systems-level accountability is developed (To understand these issues please see Appendixes 8: Anti-pseudonym bingo 9: On Refusing to Tell You My Name and 10: Who is Harmed by a “Real Names” Policy?)
I have compiled a list of types of stakeholder types in Appendix 3 representing various interests and points of view in society that are essential to include early on.
Accurate Assumptions in the NOI
An assumption that the NSTIC governance NOI gets right is that all relevant and affected parties (see note) must be involved or at least represented in the emergence and ongoing governance of an Identity Ecosystem.
“Representation of all stakeholders is a difficult but essential task when stakeholders are as numerous and diverse as those in the Identity Ecosystem.”
It accurately names the challenge that comes with the number of parties involved. With this vastness, it can become overwhelming to think of systems and processes that will be effective and inclusive on this scale. I have articulated in Appendix 3 a list of many different types of stakeholder groups representing a diverse array of interests.
Limiting Assumptions in the NOI
Given the need to meet the broad and potentially conflicting criteria to be successful, there are two assumptions embedded within the governance NOI that could limit the ability to find solutions that meet these criteria.