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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Linked Data Strategy for Global Identity

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, March 15, 2012
11:38 am


A colleague recently shared an interesting article with me.  “The Linked Data Strategy for Global Identity” by Hugh Glaser and Harry Halpin focuses on dealing with “the Identity problem in the context of linked data.”  Unfortunately, there is a charge to by the article, but here is an overview.

The topic is introduced this way:

Identity is easily one of the most difficult research areas on the Web and Semantic Web, and one that needs both practical solutions and multidisciplinary research. Identity is how to refer reliably to anything, abstract or more concrete, over time and space, and in different contexts. We’re used to identity being quite simple, as your name easily refers to you when another person is speaking to you. Yet on closer inspection, and at a Web scale, identity is quite tricky, as when you type your name into a search engine and see that it can refer to many other people in different contexts.

I can identify with that problem – there are many “Mark Dixons” in the world who are far more famous than I.  For example, I am quite sure that “Emmy-nominated and AP Award winning Channel 3 Early Warning Weather Meteorologist Mark Dixon” is not the author of this blog.

The whole topic of Linked Data is fascinating to me.  A Wikipedia article on the subject states:

Linked data describes a method of publishing structured data so that it can be interlinked and become more useful. It builds upon standard Web technologies such as HTTP and URIs, but rather than using them to serve web pages for human readers, it extends them to share information in a way that can be read automatically by computers. This enables data from different sources to be connected and queried.

Again, I can relate … there exists a myriad of data about me on the Internet, some published by me and some by others.  It is really very disjoint and often unconnected.  If people poke around at the information, they may be able to related disparate items because they recognize my photo or other descriptive attributes.  However, it would be very difficult for computers to automatically related all the different items. (That might now be such a bad think in many cases).

After exploring a few alternative approaches to this thorny problem, the Global Identity article concludes:

The entire bet of the linked data enterprise critically rests on using URIs to create identities for everything. Whether this succeeds might very well determine whether information integration will be trapped in centralized proprietary databases or integrated globally in a decentralized manner with open standards. Given the tremendous amount of data being created and the Web’s ubiquitous nature, URIs and equivalence links might be the best chance we have of solving the identity problem, transforming a profoundly difficult philosophical issue into a concrete engineering project.

It will be interesting to see what progress is made on this issue in upcoming years.


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