Writing today in the latest issue of Nodalities Magazine, Garlik CEO Tom Ilube tackles the increasingly fraught subject of Identity Theft before moving past it to consider notions of 'social verification.'
Tom's company, Garlik, offers a product called DataPatrol that helps UK consumers track information about themselves held by banks, loan companies, etc;
"Would you know if your personal information got into the wrong hands? Or if it was being used incorrectly? There are over four billion places online that could be storing your data - from entries on websites to public records. You'd have to have more than just eyes in the back of your head to keep tabs on that lot. That's why we created DataPatrol - to watch the digital world for you."
More esoterically, the same Semantic Web approach to data aggregation and the same locally developed massive RDF triple-store technology is applied to a measure of 'digital status;' QDOS.
"We all have a presence in the online world whether we use the internet or not and protecting yourself from identity fraud is just one side of the story. Our digital presence also increasingly opens up new opportunities and influences real world decisions made about us. We now have a means of measuring and therefore managing the way we look online, we call it digital status. QDOS is how we measure it. It's designed to give you a starting point for managing and taking control of your online status. Be seen how you want to be seen. Welcome to QDOS.
Recent research has shown that more and more Brits are making decisions based on digital status. Already 16% have chosen their new home based on how their prospective neighbours appear online. 1 in 5 (20%) have researched a prospective boss online before accepting a job and 32% have searched online to find out more about trades people and professionals, from plumbers to lawyers, before hiring them to do a job."
In his article Tom points to the problem of 'impersonation fraud' in social networks, arguing that relatively small proportions of impersonation within a social network are far more disruptive - and destructive - than their email equivalent, spam;
"If I use an online dating site, only to find that one in twenty, perhaps even one in ten of the people I try to interact with are not who the claim to be I will walk away from that site. My guess is that a 5-10% level of impersonation fraud will send even the biggest such site into a rapid downward spiral as real users vote with their feet. The penetration levels may vary by type of site (Garlik is currently conducting research to gauge consumer sensitivity to this) but in any case I believe it will be far below the tolerance levels that we have to other types of spam. Once our spam filters are in place we happily use email despite the 80% spam levels. Our confidence in email itself is not significantly undermined. But would you really put your personal details in to a social networking site if you knew in advance that 80% of the other 'people' in it were fakesters and fraudsters?"
Tom goes on to introduce the notion of 'social verification,' and to explore the role that the venerable 'Friend of a Friend' (FOAF) file might play in helping everyone to interact online with more confidence. An early example of putting Semantic Web specifications to work, could this be the use case for which FOAF has been waiting?
Disclosure: I am the editor of Nodalities Magazine.