Forget uploading your brain, because the first thing you upload will be your identity. 

Everything you sign-up for and use in the future will go through an Identity Data Provider (IDP) and here’s what it means for you.


Co-written by Daniel Charboneau.

Imagine a world where you have complete control of all of your online data- your status updates, Instagram photos, Facebook likes, tweets and any other piece of data that you generate online. If you chose to deactivate your social media account, you literally restrict it’s ability to access to your data. If you chose to use a new social network, all of your status updates & pictures can come with you at the push of a button. You would be at the center of your own ecosystem, defining who, what, when & how online services can access and use your data. Most importantly, you would own your data this time. Although this may seem improbable in today’s terms of service rich world, this will be completely normal behavior in the not-so-distant future through an Identity Data Provider (IDP). It’s already being built.

What is an Identity Data Provider (IDP)?

An Identity Data Provider (IDP) is a third-party organization that stores all of your personal data and acts as a medium between you and online service providers like Facebook, Twitter & Google. Think of an IDP as a broker that works for you to manage all of your online information. IDP’s will enable you to control who can use your information such as what you liked, who you shared information with, who you interact with, what services you use. At present LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google are de facto IDP’s who as of yet have not provided control. The right mixture of startups, consumer demand and awareness. and potential legislation will inevitably lead to increased consumer control and network openness.

What about OpenID, OAuth, etc. Don’t they do the same thing?

OpenID is a convenient and open way to login to sites, without them having to establish their own login system for users to keep up with. OpenID is only a login utility, and it does not house any of your online data or activities. In the future, OpenID could be a utility that could be leveraged as a login element for an Identity Data Provider.

Why do we need Identity Data Providers (IDPs)?

  • Privacy & Security: It’s safe to assume that you do not own anything you post on any website that is not owned or controlled by you. IDP’s will allow you to pay for privacy control.
  • Personalized Experiences: Currently, every website and online service treats you the same. It knows nothing about you when first visit and expects to learn about you based on what you provide or your future interactions. It cannot access or learn from any of your other online interactions.
  • Internet-of-Things: Hyperconnectivity and sensors will continue generate massive amounts of data about us that is currently silo’d into individual web products and services.

What does it mean for you?

  • Ownership is coming back: There will be a day in time that you gain control and ownership back for your data. Users will have control of what data they provide third-parties access to.
  • You can make money off your data: Business monetization of your data in the future may allow you to get a piece of the pie in return for allowing them access to certain elements.
  • Better online experiences: With all of this information in one place, future apps and services can serve up better recommendations & predictions using the data we provide it. The days of reentering the same information on multiple sites will be over.

Although, this may seem like science-fiction, elements of IDPs are starting to emerge in the academic world, and we expect that the first IDP startups to appear within the next 12-24 months.