I’m right now at an Identity Management Workshop organized by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard and the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford. It’s a pretty heady mix of policy and technology discussion, and generally quite fascinating, but one of my favourite parts so far has been Jennifer Martinez‘s overview of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it applies to identity and privacy.

I hadn’t really ever read it in detail, but it’s quite an amazing document, especially considering that it’s been so widely ratified, if not always honoured. One part I especially enjoyed was 29.1:

Article 29.
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

That element resonated with me in a number of pleasing ways, and Mozilla is certainly one of them. We serve the community, and work to preserve our right and ability to serve the community, because that community provides a context in which we can serve ourselves, and help to shape the world as we feel it should be. Whether that’s Adam Smith’s invisible hand, a divinely-inspired act of charity, or an artifact of our evolved neurochemistry — that I couldn’t tell you. But I’m sure glad that it seems to work well, and that I’m able to participate in it.

(Edit: Jennifer Martinez is not Jennifer Granick, though they are both very nice people.)

digital concrete

I ran across this article this morning, about how Microsoft is reaching out to other browsers like Firefox and Safari to encourage adoption of InfoCard technologies. The article is certainly true as written, and I’ve written before about some of my involvement in those discussions, but I would like to caution people against reading into it that we have made or announced concrete plans to support InfoCard as a piece of the Firefox platform.

I think that support for rich and user-empowering identity infrastructure is an important element of the future growth of both the web and Firefox, and I think — perhaps somewhat more controversially — that InfoCard’s principles and protocols are a pretty strong basis for that infrastructure, but there’s a big gap between those beliefs and an item in the committed Firefox roadmap.

For better or for worse, my still-forming opinions about technologies do not Mozilla technology policy make.


I lost a week to a horrible bout of insomnia — I cannot recommend it to you, my loyal viewers, even for experimental purposes — and then “lost” most of a week to a great management offsite and HQ visit. So I’m quite a ways behind in putting to bed various post-drafts about, especially, identity and Firefox’s disruptive potential. I’ve blocked off a fair bit of time this week to catch up on those things, as gently egged on by Kim and Frank.

I’ve also had a lot of interesting personal stuff going on, but that’s not really planet material, so it’ll be in another post or few.

laws of identity

This is the first — perhaps second — in what I expect will be a long-ish series exploring some of my thinking behind what the “identity strategy” for Mozilla should look like. Not necessarily what the strategy will be, but what problems it needs to solve, and how the values of the project are reflected in the choices that we face.

If you are new to the modern discussion of “digital identity”, you might find some useful discussion of the issues and stakes here in Kim Cameron’s “Laws of Identity”. Kim’s captured a lot of good thinking from himself and others, and I think it’s a solid basis for discussing the differences between identity systems (or, as is the more fashionable thing these days, identity metasystems — but that’s another post).

So that’s my plan! I finally feel like I have a handle on enough of this stuff to start sharing it without being totally incoherent, and so I will try.