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identity and names


At 04:32 PM 3/27/98 -0500, John Lowry wrote:
>In summary:
>	The signature on the document establishes intent.
>	Identity is asserted by the certificate.
>	Saying that my key is my name is equivalent to 
>	saying that my pen is my name.  This is nonsense.
>	My key is what I use to - among other things - establish
>	intent and provide integrity.  My pen is used for the same
>	purpose.
>	My X.509 certificate is what I present to assert an identity.
>	My birth certificate (and other credentials) do the same
>	in other contexts.

If you want to define "identity" so that the statement above makes sense, I 
suppose you're free to, but I don't buy it.  You have a name, John, that is 
different from your key -- but fond though you doubtless are of your name, 
its value to me as an identifier is nearly 0.  The community in which we 
operate is too big for common names to function as identifiers.  They're 
still good for what psychologists call "strokes".  They have a 
social/politeness function.

My birth certificate and other credentials don't give me an identity.  I am I
because I am I.  My credentials document facts about me: my parents, my 
birth time and location, my permission to drive, my permission to re-enter 
the US if I leave it, my permission to charge money through MasterCard or 
VISA or AMEX, ....

Some of my credentials (like my birth certificate) try to identify people by
name.  That worked, in a world long ago and a galaxy far away, back before
the global village made names cease to function as identifiers.

I, for one, will resist any attempt to assign inescapable, globally unique
names to people -- but we do need unique names for various functions.
I have many names, among my friends.  Few of these get repeated here on
the net.  I also have many names by which computers know me: my PGP keys, my
login names, my AltaVista tunnel key, my CyberCash walletID, ....

 - Carl

Version: PGP for Personal Privacy 5.5.3


|Carl M. Ellison  cme@cybercash.com   http://www.clark.net/pub/cme |
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