180° Shift: Owning Your Identity

180° Shift: Owning Your Identity

Stalnaker: Good morning. How are you guys today? Thank you very much, David, for having us in for Techonomy. I’m based in London, so it’s a bit of a long flight to get over here for three minutes, but absolutely worth it, because what I’m talking about today I think is actually very important for all of us here in the room. And what I’m talking about is actually the concept of owning your own identity, and it’s specifically owning your own digital identity. And the reason I think this is important is that we’re heading very quickly into a period of, kind of our historical collective experience, where our digital identity is becoming almost as important as our national identity, and in some ways even more important than that identity. And the reason we started thinking about this is because we operate a collective social network called Hub Culture, which has been around a long time, since 2002. And we’ve always been early for stuff, but never huge in stuff. We started a social network in 2002, we started operating co-working spaces in physical real estate in 2005. In 2007 we launched the first true digital currency that was usable at those spaces and that currency has since become the first digital currency to move into the financial market. We’re trading Ven in the European foreign markets now, where we just passed half a billion and we’re heading very quickly towards a billion units exchanged.
So we’ve sort of been early in a lot of these things, and because we’ve been early in these things, we’ve had time to think about where things are going. And where we think the next thing is, is basically digital identity, and we’ve learned that because running a community, and specifically writing a currency that allows micropayments and the instant exchange of value all around the planet has resulted in some pretty interesting discussions with the Department of Justice, the Federal Reserve, and other groups around the world. These people are particularly interested in how money moves and how we identify the movement of money. But in the Internet, what we have is a situation where once you create a value metric, whether it’s Bitcoin or Ven, or there are a few other out there, that value metric is starting to map to the nodes of the network, and the links between those nodes are the highways, the circulatory system by which these values can exchange. We very quickly learned that applying some level of identity to these nodes is actually very important.
So when I talk about digital identity, I’m not just talking about digital identity for people. I’m also talking about it for institutions and entities, and even to bots and what we call distributive autonomous agents. All of these three different types, these three major types of identity, are going to need some level of label and some sort of metric by which they can be measured. So we started talking to MIT Media Lab about this idea, and this picture that I have up here with all my little selfie hash tags is—does anybody know where this is? This is the Gold Room at Bretton Woods. So when MIT does things, they really do it right. For the last couple years they’ve had us up to the Bretton Woods, talking about what it would look like if we could reverse the entire flow of information on the Internet in terms of how we authenticate online. They had a bunch of us, including some Bitcoin people and Ripple people and MIT people, all around the table here, and then at a little retreat at a farm next door called Windhover. And what has emerged over the last two summers when we’ve done these retreats up in New Hampshire is this idea that we should be self-sovereign on the Web. And to be self-sovereign on the Web, that means you need to own your own identity and it means you need to own your own data. So what we’ve been working on with them is a new type of technology called Open Mustard Seed, and what this does, it’s like a little seed of data, a little data vault, and we are able to provide ownership of that little data vault to the individual. So in our social network, we’re the first consumer application that has this available where our customers, our members own that data vault. You can put data in that vault and you can fill out what we call tabs that define who you are. So obviously your name, potentially your nationality, where you live, but then other types of data, eventually genomic data, or your FICA score, your banking information or phone number. All this is locked cryptographically in a very sophisticated technology that is not visible to anyone else other than yourself. And what we do is take that data, we turn it into a little colored tab and we display that onto a badge, and that badge is basically your Hub ID. The more data you add, the more tabs you fill out, the larger your aura grows. So we talk a lot about Hub ID in terms of the idea of digital tabs creating aura and that aura is invisible to other people, other institutions who want to access your information or create a relationship with you.
Now, crucially for us, this also enables the Ven to kind of ride along with your digital identity, so you can make an instant micropayment or you can receive an instant micropayment depending on how other’s want to use or access your identity. But the key thing is that you actually have control over that and you’re able to choose how others are accessing your identity.
The reason we think this is important is that increasingly our digital lives are led online. Our financial digital lives are led online. Right now, with really everybody else in the social media thing, it’s wonderful that we get wonderful free services, and it’s really made the world better, but the reality is that your data is the product. You are the one being sold. And there are other entities, centralized entities that are profiting from that. And that’s great, but we think you should have a choice. You should be able to own your own identity, you should be able to profit from how your identity gets used, and most importantly, you should be able to choose and know when it’s being accessed and how it’s being used. So with regard to various surveillance issues, the control of government, and even the control of corporations, we really hope that Hub ID is a new solution that will hopefully change the future. Thank you.


Stan Stalnaker

Founding Director, Hub Culture

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