Friday, January 14, 2011

Expect battles over identity provision online

Facebook claims more than 500m users (each one worth a notional $100 dollars in the recent valuation!). It's already making money from advertising but Simon Garfinkel argues in MIT Technology Review that the company wants to be the single source for authenticating users on the Internet. Already users can login to selected websites automatically using the Facebook Connect system. This is probably disturbing for a number of reasons:
  • The movie The Social Network re-hashed for a mass audience some of the arguments about the company's controversial ethics.
  • Web developers can work around Facebook technology potentially to grab name, address, phone, friend and other information without you knowing it. (More)
  • There's a rising current of concern over the dangers of privacy breaches in our connected world.
The revenue stakes are high: expect companies to pile in with competing offerings, and governments to seek to gain or retain control. And expect the hacker community to try to find alternatives.