Digital Culture

Identity 2.0 meets real life

Mark from BoingBoing tells this story about a friend who meets the next identity crisis early: what do you do when there’s bad information given about you, and you have no recourse?

What interests me is that this whole phenomenon is only just beginning to get rolling. Criminal background checks are still a little too expensive right now for most apartment landlords, home-owner associations, and employers. That obviously will not last, since apparently those millions of paper documents in county court houses have been largely digitized. Now that the data entry has been completed (competently or otherwise), information just wants to be free, right? Certainly it wants to be cheaper than $78. In a few years (or maybe months) from now, when you can check any job applicant or prospective tenant for $5, or maybe for free if the service is supported by context-sensitive popup ads, everyone will be checking everyone. Already it costs me nothing to view a map of the alleged child molesters living in my neighborhood. (I wonder how many errors are in _that_ database.) Can other felons be far behind?

Maybe one of your readers has some ideas on how this can be fixed. I don’t see any way. It makes the fuss over Wikipedia look pretty trivial; John Seigenthaler certainly didn’t have to submit a set of fingerprints to get _his_ error corrected, and it didn’t deprive him of a place to live, either.

This is as much about information management as it is identity. I’m not sold on this answer, but what if we owned the information about ourselves? That is, any information that was a formal measure of my identity was owned by me in the same sense that I can own copyright on something I write. I could then license said information to those institutions I wished (the government would have built in license for identification purposes, I suppose, in a limited scope) and could sue organizations that used my information illegally. We solve junk mail and the many-database problem all at once. Of course, the cure may be worse than the disease…

By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *