Trust, the currency of social capital, is at an all time low. Without a certain level of trust no civilised exchange is possible, whether commercial or conversational—the alternative being pillage and insults! As trust in others, institutions, the Internet and the future are on the wane, it is our Open Society which is endangered.
The Internet is no stranger to trust challenges: viruses, spamming, phishing, spoofing, fragmentation and lack of control of personal data, identity theft, hacking, etc. The main cause of these ailments is rooted in an Internet that was designed as a network of machines, not people.
While the identity of a machine in a network can be reduced to a simple identifier (an IP address) attributed by an external authority, this does not work for people. A person’s identity is an emerging property resulting from complex interactions with other entities (people, institutions, businesses, etc.). A person’s identity cannot be reduced to an email address, a LinkedIn of Facebook profile.
It is this complex nature of personal identities and the inadequacy of the current Internet technologies that is unashamedly exploited by the marketers wiretapping our conversations and monitoring our behaviours to push their products and services. Rogue states are now using the same channels to manipulate the very identity of countries!
“He who enrolls, controls”
This is true of today’s identity paradigm on the Internet. Of course, there are a number of initiatives to protect personal identities, for example Europe’s new privacy legislation (GDPR) that will become effective beginning 2018. While a positive move, its impact is likely to be marginal unless we replace the current identity paradigm with that of self-sovereign identities.
To allow the emergence of self-sovereign identities, we need to establish something akin to an identity layer, i.e. a group of technologies and protocols that can transform the Internet of machines (and the Internet of Objects) into an Internet of Subjects. It is what Bit of Trust aims at providing.
Bit of Trust
Imagine what would be possible if we were able to make trust visible, so we would not have to wait for its absence to realise that it existed! Social capital would not be an abstraction anymore, we could compute its value and use it as a policy indicator; we could identify where the strengths and weaknesses in our social fabric are. Making trust visible would provide a mirror to inform our decisions and reflect on our actions, individual and collective.
To make trust visible, we already have diplomas, badges and endorsements, etc. Social networks and collaborative platforms have their own systems to capture and exploit trust information. The problem is that this information is fragmented and under the control of third parties hidden behind the closed walls of silos. We now have Bits of Trust (BoTs)!
At BitofTrust.com we are working on providing everybody with the tools to flood the Internet with Bits of Trust, thus creating the conditions for the emergence of new services, trust based, aiming at supporting Open Business and Open Employment, Open Knowledge and Open Learning as well as Open Government and Citizenship. By providing everybody with the foundry to create their own BoTs, we give the power to everyone to establish their self-sovereign identities to create a more trustworthy world.