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Identity R/Evolution

Booklet: The Identity R/Evolution

The identity r/evolution is happening. Who are you, who am I in the information society? In recent years, the convergence of several factors – technological, political, economic – has accelerated a fundamental change in our networked world. On a technological level, information becomes easier to gather, to store, to exchange and to process. The belief that more information brings more security has been a strong political driver to promote information gathering since September 11. Profiling intends to transform information into knowledge in order to anticipate one’s behaviour, or needs, or preferences. It can lead to categorizations according to some specific risk criteria, for example, or to direct and personalized marketing. As a consequence, new forms of identities appear. They are not necessarily related to our names anymore. They are based on information, on traces that we leave when we act or interact, when we go somewhere or just stay in one place, or even sometimes when we make a choice. They are related to the SIM cards of our mobile phones, to our credit card numbers, to the pseudonyms that we use on the Internet, to our email addresses, to the IP addresses of our computers, to our profiles… Like traditional identities, these new forms of identities can allow us to distinguish an individual within a group of people, or describe this person as belonging to a community or a category.

How far have we moved through this process? The identity [r]evolution is already becoming part of our daily lives. People are eager to share information with their “friends” in social networks like Facebook, in chat rooms, or in Second Life. Customers take advantage of the numerous bonus cards that are made available. Video surveillance is becoming the rule. In several countries, traditional ID documents are being replaced by biometric passports with RFID technologies. This raises several privacy issues and might actually even result in changing the perception of the concept of privacy itself, in particular by the younger generation. In the information society, our (partial) identities become the illusory masks that we choose –or that we are assigned– to interplay and communicate with each other. Rights, obligations, responsibilities, even reputation are increasingly associated with these masks. On the one hand, these masks become the key to access restricted information and to use services. On the other hand, in case of a fraud or negative reputation, the owner of such a mask can be penalized: doors remain closed, access to services is denied. Hence the current preoccupying growth of impersonation, identity-theft and other identity-related crimes.

Where is the path of the identity r/evolution leading us? The booklet is giving a glance on possible scenarios in the field of identity.


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