Google: The Oracle of Identity

Bob Blakely gave a fascinating talk at Catalyst -- and Eric saw familiar companies...

Bob Blakely just gave a fascinating talk at Catalyst entitled, "Identity and Community in Human Society." I won't try to summarize *all* of Bob's points, which began with the social construction of reality and walked through the "non-person-ness" of corporations (and subsequently what they value). Rather, I want to touch upon and add to Bob's final point.

Bob argued that the identity metasystem is, in fact, a bad idea because it doesn't correctly align the interests of the parties involved. Briefly:

Individual gives identity data to an "identity provider"; identity provider gives identity data to corporation.

In this equation, the indivual expects the corporation to act in a "trustworthy" manner with its information, while, in fact, it can't --- and doesn't want to as doing so requires it to assume risk that it does not want. (I'm summarizing this badly, but hang with me.)

Rather Bob proposed - "The Identity Oracle" -- not in the large software company sense, but in the "entity that aggregates information and relays metadata to a third party" sense. The equation then is:

Individual gives data and policy to the Identity Oracle; Identity Oracle aggregates data of individuals and provides meta-data to corporations. Thus, the oracle assumes the risk (instead of passing it on), and simultaneously provides value to the company and individual.

What immediately occurred to me was that Bob's Oracle equation nearly perfectly described the business of Google:

Individual gives data and policy to Google (I want to find out about Snickers bars). Google aggregates meta-data and passes to the corporation (via an AdWords campaign placed next to my search results).

Did Bob intend to say that Google is an Identity Oracle that's monetizing the value of that interaction? We'll see what Bob says...