Identity as a Service, with avatars

The cloud provides the ability to treat identity management as a service, and treat identities themselves as cloud resources.

Can cloud shift control of identity management to the end user, where it ultimately belongs? Possibly, if done right.

That's the word from ZapThink/Dovel's Jason Bloomberg, who points out in a new post that cloud offers new options for identity management. Bloomberg calls for the ability for end-users to have their own avatars, maintained in the cloud, and able to access various services. He calls it "a digital representation of our identity that the user controls for themselves. In other words, something like a digital wallet or key ring that manages PII on behalf of the user."

While such technologies have been around for a while, they have been less than enthusiastically embraced. "Big companies didn’t like the idea of giving their customers control of their own identities," Bloomberg says. Enter the cloud. "What the cloud brings to the table is not just the ability to treat identity management as a service," he says. "It also enables us to treat identities themselves as cloud resources." Here's how it works:

"Let’s take the notion of a user identity – or to be more precise, the user’s avatar – and consider it to be a cloud resource. The user, that is, we can provision such avatars as we see fit. And because they’re in the cloud, they’re location independent. Facebook could use our avatar. Assign it privileges or other properties. Or our bank. Or our employer. But we control it.

"Furthermore, we can choose how we control our Avatar. ... Treating identities as cloud resources can also provide privacy boundaries. For example, I might instruct my avatar to provide my Social Security Number to my bank and the IRS, but not to Facebook. And of course, one of the primary benefits of this approach is that I can maintain my personal information in a single place. If I move, I notify my avatar, and everyone I’ve authorized to see my address automatically gets the update."

(Photo: Joe McKendrick.)