The Observer writes about some of the digital identity speculation going on leading up to this week’s WWW conference in the UK:
The babies of the future, for example, will have a web address instead of a National Insurance Number. Hall said: ‘I have a vision that in the future when a baby is born you’ll get some sort of internet ID that is effectively your digital persona, and it will grow with you. It will actually represent you in some way – what you know, what you’ve done, your experiences. I guess you’d call it your URI [Uniform Resource Identity]. This is the thing that always identifies you. Every time you do something on the internet, it is effectively logged, building up this profile that is with you for your life. Then you have your life’s record, which can include any legal documents or photographs or videos that you might have, that you can pass on to your children. We will be able to build software that can interpret that profile to help get the answer that you need in the context that you’re in.’ …
Hall likened the moral dilemmas posed by the collection and use of personal data to those thrown up by human embryo research, and called for the government to establish a regulatory body. ‘There are very deep ethical issues with this. I think we need not government itself but a well trusted, respected committee that will have oversight of the moral and ethical issues involved here. The UK has done very well out of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, where we have a very good way of deciding ethically whether we should do stem cell research, for example.
‘Like an embryo is potentially a human life, your digital profile is actually you. You’re dealing with people’s health, emotional and educational records, and I think it’s too important to just say, well, the businesses will take care of that.’