Are You Who You Say You Are? Why Identity Matters
In the dawn of the digital age, many found value in the relative anonymity afforded online. Identity felt more fluid than most physical spaces; therefore, more freeing. Online, people found seeming safety connecting with others without compromising their physical vulnerability. This ability was particularly useful to marginalized populations facing real threats in the physical world if their identity was disclosed. Of course, this aspect of anonymity online is still attractive for many people.
On the other hand, we’ve seen how anonymity can be manipulated. Individual people and institutions can lie about identity for their own benefit. Many have learned too well that digital lies can even lead to physical dangers. Though individuals lying can be dangerous online, given the ability of information to disseminate rapidly, the danger grows exponentially when multiplied with the aggregated power of centralized institutions. That threat grows further combined with centralized, corporate power bent on one goal — unabashed, expedient capital growth.
Identity and Recognition
Being recognized for creative work is about more than accolades for content creators, though for creators, recognition is vital for sustaining creative work. Content creators need verified recognition in order to be fairly compensated for their work. Unfortunately, validation from authentic sources is difficult to track and fair compensation difficult to achieve within centralized platforms. The ubiquity of exploitation among centralized platforms is pervasive, in great part, because they are the largest platforms. It’s like the corrupt car salesperson at the large dealership who justifies poor behavior by pointing to the other massive car dealerships doing the same thing down the street.
Centralized, corporations may claim to care about the “rights” of content creators nominally but set up systems where it is difficult to claim ownership and easy to appropriate content. A lack of clarity concerning ownership certainly does not help content creators. Anonymity most benefits those who seek to exploit others within these systems. The whose-work-is-it-really approach allows exploiters to take work as their own and to profit from it without compensating creators.
Though some individuals and centralized platforms benefit from fraud, a majority of people do not. In fact, the reduction of digital fraud is imperative for human growth. Authentic identification is tied to transparency. For every social aspect, from commerce to business to romance and beyond, people need to know who they are dealing with in order to make good decisions. Fraud is more difficult when identification is authentic. With authentic identification, bad actors can be marginalized and fair-dealing actors can rise to the top.
Identity and Accountability
When people act anonymously, there is very little accountability. The structure of centralized platforms encourages anonymity to increase their users (and their bottom line), but then these entities play a public relations game by policing some fraudulent anonymous content to appease consumers and government officials threatening oversight. To combat identification fraud, centralized systems lean on secret algorithms and comparatively small fraud-prevention teams considering the scale of the problem. These methods are destined to fail if the effort is only intended to placate rather than to address the problem.
Though centralized platforms exploit anonymity for their benefit, there are legitimate appeals to anonymity. Some digital information is necessarily private. No one wants their banking info shared with the masses. Additionally, some forms of expression in the public sphere benefit from anonymity. People need be able to share ideas, even unpopular ones, without fear of reprisal. In some cases, anonymity is the only way to keep people safe. The real issue is whether a balance can be reached between the need for anonymity in some situations and the need for authentication and accountability.
A Decentralized Approach to Identity
Regardless of their motivations, centralized platforms have not achieved a suitable balance between the benefits of anonymity and the need for accountability. Decentralizing technologies, when utilized toward ethical aims, may provide a better path forward.
Contentos is creating a decentralized foundation that communities and products can be built upon. Within the Contentos ecosystem, the identity information of all users is recorded on the Contentos Public Chain. Furthermore, all user evaluation data is permanently recorded on the chain as well. Transparency and permanence provide accountability.
On the other hand, not everyone needs to know everything always. What’s important is that people interacting with each other can trust each other and do business correspondingly. In the Contentos ecosystem, smart contracts govern the relationships between parties that wish to do business together. These transactions are transparent so that all users will know their value in a given interaction.
There is no doubt that anonymity and authenticated identification both have tremendous power in the digital realm. Due to their great power, they may best be utilized in balance between their seeming oppositions. Furthermore, a decentralized system, set up ethically to support all users based upon their constructive contributions has a better chance of achieving that balance than a centralized system set up unethically to benefit those at the top.
Contentos bargains that clear identification and transparent/permanent transactions create strong communities. With strong communities, individuals flourish and human potential is unbridled.