Apple's new iTunes puts the difference between digital identity and presence into sharp relief. Over at Tom on Identity, Tom points out that because he lives in the UK, iTunes won't let him download songs, let alone TV shows. Tom says:
It is assumed that because I live in the UK, I am interested in music that is released in the UK. It’s assumed part of my Identity is ‘this person is English’ and ‘this person speaks English’.
Actually, this is only part of the story. Apple, at the behest of the record companies, is limiting access to control markets. I don't deny them that right, but it does fly in the face of what the Internet is all about. What Tom's running up against is an issue of presence.
Your current location is properly thought of as part of your presence information. Some like ot think of presence as part of identity, but I don't. Presence information is based on and tied to digital identities, but it is something apart. Tom points out another example of Showtime's Web site being completely denied to him based on where he's at and then says:
In each of these instances, an assumption of my Identity has been made based on someone else’s description of the credentials I can provide - my IP address, or where my bank account is held. Neither of these things actually mean anything in particular about my Identity, and they’re outside my control.
In both cases, something else is being used as a proxy for real presence information. In the case of iTunes, the bank card is the proxy. The crazy thing is that Apple doesn't care if Tom buys music from iTunes, they only care if he does it with a UK-based bank card. He could gt a US-based credit card account and be just fine.
Imperfect proxies for real credentials and identity data is one of the real problems with DRM. Making decisions based on approximations is sure to lead to unhappy customers and leaky DRM systems. Some believe that what we need then is more precise data, but I think that's a fool's errand. Precise, control-based systems scale poorly and are difficult to maintain. The real answer is in new business models that don't rely on controlling customer's rights to digital content based on where they bank.