[Log In] []

Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Saturday, May 25, 2024

Core Identities and Personal Data Stores

Identity, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, May 3, 2013
12:23 pm


I just finished reading an intriguing white paper, “Towards a Trustworthy Digital Infrastructure for Core Identities and Personal Data Stores,” written by Thomas Hardjono, Dazza Greenwood, and Alex (Sandy) Pentland, all associated with MIT.  I was particularly interested to see how much detail has been built around this concept of Core Identities since Dazza Greenwood and I discussed it several years ago, while I was employed by Sun Microsystems.

The paper proposes …

At the heart of digital identities is the concept of the core identity of an individual, which inalienably belongs to that individual. The core identity serves as the root from which emerge other forms of digital derived identities (called personas) that are practically useful and are legally enforced in digital transactions.

… and goes on to explore:

potential business models for Core Identity service providers and Persona providers (specializing in personalization, privacy and preferences services for a unified user experience across many sites and systems)

The paper then ties the concept of Core Identities and Personas to the MIT Open Personal Data Store (Open PDS) initiative:

The OpenPDS is an open-source Personal Data Store (PDS) enabling the user to collect, store, and give access to their data while protecting their privacy. Users can install and operate their own PDS, or alternatively users can operate an OpenPDS instance in a hosted environment.

We use the term “dynamic” here to denote that fact that the PDS does not only contain static data but also incorporates the ability to perform computations based on policy and is user-managed or user-driven. In a sense, the OpenPDS can be considered a small and portable Trusted Compute Unit belonging to an individual.

The paper concludes by emphasizing these four concepts:

  1. An infrastructure to support the establishment and use of core identities and personas is needed in order to provide equitable access to data and resources on the Internet.
  2. Personas are needed which are legally bound to core identifiers belonging to the individual. We see personas as a means to achieve individual privacy through the use of derived identifiers.
  3. the privacy preserving features of core identities and personas fully satisfy the data privacy requirements of Personal Data Stores as defined by the MIT OpenPDS project. The ability for an individual to own and control his or her personal data through deployment of a PDS represents a key requirement for the future of the digital commerce on Internet.
  4. We believe the MIT OpenPDS design allows for a new breed of providers to emerge who will support consumer privacy, while at the same time allow the consumer to optionally partake in various data mining and exploration schemes in a privacy-preserving manner.

This sounds like OpenPDS is very much in line with the Personal Cloud concept.  Perhaps the MIT work with Core Identities, Personas and Open Personal Data Systems will help shorten the time before we can take advantage of real, working Personal Clouds. 

Comments Off on Core Identities and Personal Data Stores . Permalink . Trackback URL

Core Identity – Reprise

Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, March 29, 2013
9:13 pm

Today, I enjoyed reading T.Rob’s post, “ Do you consider your digital identity a separate self or is it identical to your real-world self?”  I started to respond to his post as a comment, but decided to write the following post.

Back in November, 2005, I began writing a series of posts about “The Identity Map,” which was centered on a concept I called “Core Identity.”

I think this Core Identity concept goes to the heart of what T.Rob discussed – that perhaps:

identities change over time … The one place we make an effort to distinguish between a person’s identities is in the present moment. The T.Rob who exists right now is a multi-faceted, yet unique entity. I participate in many communities across many interests …

I would propose that the core of who we are does not change, but many characteristics, including both physical and mental attributes do change over time. We may possess multiple “digital identities,” or perhaps more specifically, “digital personas,” which are but subsets of the complex core identity and the myriad set of attributes surrounding that core.  I drew this chart in November, 2005:


The remainder of this post comes from a couple of earlier posts - here and here.  Thanks, T.Rob, for triggering these memories.


Core Identity is the essence of who a person is. This unique “Core Identity” can be identified or described by attributes that belong to and describe an individual. Some unique characteristics (e.g. DNA signature, footprint) are immediately measurable at birth. Others change over time.

The attributes that further identify and describe an individual are:

Names. I am known by many names. My given name is Mark. My surname is Dixon. My i-name is MarkDixon.My social security number is [wouldn’t you like to know?]. My kids call me Dad.

Characteristics. I have some measureable characteristics that don’t change – my DNA signature, my fingerprints. Others change over time – height, weight, hair color. Does IQ change? I don’t know.

Relationships. I have relationships with people, institutions and things. I am father to my children, brother to my siblings, husband to my wife. I am an employee of Sun Microsystems and an alumnus of Brigham Young University. I own a Nikon camera. I love Chinese food. I can’t stand professional wrestling.

Roles. The functions I perform in life are roles: Father, husband, Sun Identity Practice Lead, Identity blogger, Church volunteer, registered voter.

Location. When I used to travel every week, I’d tell people I claimed home addresses in Mesa, Arizona and United seat 2B. These are descriptors of physical locations, relative to different known reference points. However, my current location (latitude, longitude, elevation) will vary, dependingon where I am physically located at any moment in time.

Experience. I have experienced many things in the 52+ years of my earthly existence. I have been stabbed by a pitchfork, run for a touchdown, flown around the world and milked a cow (many times). Each experience adds uniqueness to my core identity.

Knowledge. During my existence, I have amassed much knowledge, some of it shared by many, some of it unique. Both you and I probably know the Pythagorean Theorem. You probably don’t know the names of my kids. I hope you don’t know my blog password.

Reputation. Other people and institutions say things about me, some of it good, some of it bad. The credit bureaus say I have a good credit rating. The DMV say I’m a so-so insurance risk because I’ve had a couple of tickets in the past three years – but they also say I hold a valid drivers license. BYU says I hold a BSEE degree. My wife likes me (and that is what really counts).


Copyright © 2005-2016, Mark G. Dixon. All Rights Reserved.
Powered by WordPress.