Identity and the Web is a big thing these days. People talk about it a lot.
Wrapped up in identity’s importance is the question of how we tie a public, digital persona back to a living, breathing human.
So along comes a New York Times piece about teens sharing passwords with each other as a sign of trust in their burgeoning relationships. This may seem only relevant to “spurned boyfriend [...] trying to humiliate an ex-girlfriend” in junior high school but it makes sense more generally. When so much of your individual equity is tied to your digital identity, one big sign of trust is sharing that identity.
I started to wonder, “Do grownups* do the same thing?” How might our digital password sharing mimic our real-world trust dependencies?
I assert that what’s important in a Web-connected conception of trust is: reliability, access and facility/ease.
Examples with three of the Web’s bigger players:
- Google – When I first set-up Google 2-step verification, I sent my backup codes to the people closest to me. Coupled with my password, these codes are necessary for every device/browser session I want to log into with my Google Account. The point is not just about trusting these friends and family member. It’s about trust but also reliability that these friends will be able to locate and communicate to me one backup code when I need it most.
- Facebook – Facebook now lets you recover a hacked account with the help of your friends. Facebook describes it as: “Giving a house key to your friends when you go on vacation.” Facebook’s implementation requires not only that your friends be true but also that they be available to access Facebook on their own to verify your identity for you.
- Twitter – There is an anecdote we take to customer meetings as a sales team at Twitter: All the celebrities who have a social media presence — YouTube Channel, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter Profile — give their credentials to YouTube or Facebook to their agent or their PR firm. But they refuse to give their Twitter handle access. (People attribute this to Twitter’s mobile emphasis and because it is easy to take Twitter with them on their phone. It’s the easiest way to post a quick picture from backstage or before the game begins, etc.).
Identity and identity-sharing or identity-trust most go hand-in-hand. If you can supply a reliable, accessible and easy way to share identities then the “trust” is no different from the way it manifests itself for objects in the physical world.
*I firmly believe you’re not an adult until you stop saying “grownup.”
Tags: access, Facebook, facility, Google, identity, trust, Twitter