3 Reasons We Need Identity Data Providers

In the future, everything you sign up for and use online will go through an Identity Data Provider -- here’s why we need them and what it means for you.

by Dustin Haisler and Daniel Charboneau / May 30, 2014

Imagine a world where you have complete control of all of your online data -- your status updates, Instagram photos, Facebook likes, tweets and any other piece of data that you generate online. If you chose to deactivate your social media account, you literally restrict its ability to access to your data. If you chose to use a new social network, all of your status updates and pictures can come with you at the push of a button. You would be at the center of your own ecosystem, defining who, what, when and how online services can access and use your data. Most importantly, you would own your data this time. Although this may seem improbable in today’s world, rich with terms of service, this will be completely normal behavior in the not-so-distant future. An Identity Data Provider (IDP) will make it possible, and it’s already being built.

What is an IDP?

An IDP is a third-party organization that stores all of your personal data and acts as a medium between you and online service providers like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Think of an IDP as a broker that works for you to manage all of your online information. IDPs will enable you to control who can use your information, such as what you liked, who you shared information with, who you interact with, what services you use. At present, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google are de facto IDPs that, as of yet, have not provided control. The right mixture of startups, consumer demand and awareness, and potential legislation, however, will inevitably lead to increased consumer control and network openness.

What about OpenID, OAuth, etc. Don’t they do the same thing?

OpenID is a convenient and open way to log in to sites, without them having to establish their own login system for users to keep up with. OpenID is only a login utility, and it does not house any of your online data or activities. In the future, OpenID could be a utility that could be leveraged as a login element for an IDP.

Why do we need IDPs?

For three main reasons:

  1. Privacy and security: It’s safe to assume that you do not own anything you post on any website that is not owned or controlled by you. IDPs will allow you to pay for privacy control.
  2. Personalized Experiences: Currently every website and online service treats you the same. It knows nothing about you when you first visit and expects to learn about you based on what you provide or your future interactions. It cannot access or learn from any of your other online interactions.
  3. Internet of Things: Hyperconnectivity and sensors will continue to generate massive amounts of data about us that is currently siloed into individual web products and services.

What does it mean for you?

Ownership is coming back: There will be a day in time that you gain control and ownership of your data back. Users will have control of what data they provide third-parties access to.

You can make money off your data: Business monetization of your data in the future may allow you to get a piece of the pie in return for allowing them access to certain elements.

Better online experiences: With all of this information in one place, future apps and services can serve up better recommendations and predictions using the data we provide it. The days of re-entering the same information on multiple sites will be over.

Although this may seem like science-fiction, elements of IDPs are starting to emerge in the academic world, and we expect that the first IDP startups will start to appear within the next 12 to 24 months.

Dustin Haisler is the chief innovation officer for e.Republic Inc., the parent company of Government Technology. This story was originally published at Medium with the headline, Forget uploading your brain, because the first thing you upload will be your identity, and has been lightly edited.

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