Mike Neuenschwander on Limited Liability Personas: Intro
I was deeply intrigued when I read an article in the New York Times, “Securing Very Important Data: Your Own.” Mike Neuenschwander of the Burton Group proposed an idea of “limited liability personas.” I thought this was so cool that I emailed him, proposing we interview him for the blog. He’s agreed, and here’s part 1.
Adam: So why don’t we start out with what’s the problem you’re trying to
solve, and what’s the way you’d like to solve it?
Mike: Great question. It’s difficult for me to be succinct on this, so bear with me:
The problem that LLP addresses is an underlying problem that’s evidenced by a wide range of social issues. These problems are so common, they’re front page news items familiar to even to people who don’t own computers. These issues include:
- identity theft, phishing, and traditional theft
- terrorism and crime – the fear of which helps promote government identity campaigns like REAL ID
- inappropriate access to regulated items such as alcohol, adult content, and lotteries
- financial exploitation (esp. for reporting financial numbers – hence the SOX regulations for accountability)
- privacy invasion
- password fatigue, with people trying helplessly manage dozens of usernames and passwords, etc.
I’ve heard it posited (by folks I call the “identerati”) that the “Net is missing an identity layer” and that’s why we see this list of social problems. I disagree. To me, such problems are symptomatic of poorly structured relationships. That is to say, the underlying “problem” is the lack of apparatus for promoting stable, fair, and safe relations. And when relations go bad, things get really ugly.
So for the last few years, I’ve looked for scenarios in which parties cooperate in difficult but non-coercive contexts. Social science and evolutionary biology have a lot to say about this topic (through studies in collaborative action theory, social dilemmas, and social emotions). From my understanding of these sciences, symmetry among participants is essential to collaborative outcomes. So, it doesn’t really matter how good the identity metasystem is or how benevolent its owner is-without symmetry in the relation it represents, it will produce exploitive results. As a society, we have to insist on symmetry. But in business-to-person relations there’s currently no symmetry at all-particularly in the legal context. LLP is meant to help natural persons have access to the same legal treatment as corporations. It turns business-to-person relations in to B2B relations.
Adam again: I’m hoping that this interview involves some emergent chaos, from my co-bloggers and from the audience. We’ve already asked questions, but please, offer up your thoughts and comments.
Finally, you can read more on the Burton blog.