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Should Google Be In Charge Of Internet Identification? They Want To Be

Google likely knows more about each of us than any other online corporation. In fact, in many respects I’d presume they know more about most of us than the government. From who we acquaint ourselves with, what we’re into, the places we go, the music we listen to, the things we buy, etc, etc etc. And we know they are only continuing their information march to cars, tvs and everywhere. It’s what they do and it’s their core business but they’re not done. See, they know all of us, but some of us use fictitious names so they are tracking each user but not necessarily ‘you’ if you follow. But if they have it their way that’s about to change.

The US government wants to shore up internet identity since it’s a place for so much commerce and so many relationships that there is a benefit to knowing that you are in fact dealing with the person who claims to be dealing with you, and obviously they’re not alone in that desire. And Google has an answer for this and it begins with Google+. You’ve likely read the controversy over the requirement to use real names. And that means people with odd names or names that match celebrities and even innocent people get booted from Google+. But that is where they want to go with Google+. Eric Schmidt (no longer EO) said last week in a conference that he sees Google+ as an identity service and not as a social service. And Google+ is already testing this with celebrities and public figures with identification badges to prove they are the ‘real’ celebrity. But this isn’t the end for them. They want everyone to be authenticated.

But are they crossing the line? I think we all see the positive aspects of this but it’s also somewhat frightening that a for-profit company that has no restrictions on their use of our data (sine we volunteered it) would be the party in charge of internet identity. Granted, Google routinely finishes at the top of public polling regarding reputation and trust. And I don’t want to get into politics here so I’ll take for granted that there will be a lot of pushback if it were the government in charge of this (and yes, I mean the US government and yes, I know that infers they would be in identity for the whole world but we’re past that). I also want think that whether it’s the most trusted company or the least, there’s a level of discomfort with a single for-profit company charged with internet identity. So this isn’t about Google as much as it is about what they stand for.

So who should be charged with this? Maybe an NGO or something in that nature. I think I’m at the point of knowing who it shouldn’t be (any government entity or any exiting for-profit company). It clearly has to be organized in a way that it maintains privacy though since by its nature it is charged with identifying us for who we are so nothing is more important than trusting that company. Like the credit card companies do with our data (yes, sarcasm but that’s a telling story about what we need to avoid). And maybe the government should be stepping up here to establish privacy standards, safeguards and penalties so that whomever we end up trusting data with we can rely on it to be maintained and not just a standard ‘I accept’ user license type consent.

So I’m open to suggestions here. Is Google so large that if they abused our information they’d effectively write their own eulogy so we can trust them or am I right in thinking that it needs to be an NGO in some form?