— Everyone wants privacy for themselves, and everyone wants accountability from other people they encounter online. The assumption, however, is that in our digitally driven world, you can't have both personal privacy and personal accountability.
"In fact you can have exactly that: privacy for yourself and accountability from others," claims Wes Kussmaul, author of Escape The Plantation. "We all see an example of just that every day. Anyone can see your car's license plate, making you accountable for what you do behind the wheel. But others don't get to know the identity of the owner or driver of your car unless there's been an incident that gives them the right and need to know."
The author notes that the model is imperfectly implemented by the various motor vehicle departments, but that "With a properly-implemented system of digital identity certificates we can have a very solid, reliable system of accountable anonymity. On the Internet and our phone networks, we can have our cake and eat it too," says Kussmaul.
"Just as your birth certificate is seldom used as a 'breeder' document to serve as the basis for your driver's license and other identity credentials that you use all the time, your 'digital birth certificate' works the same way. You are the only person who sees its contents, unless you choose to present it somewhere," says Kussmaul. "But you almost never need to do that, because the credentials derived from your breeder document establish your accountability without conveying any information, not even your name. Unless there's a court order compelling it, you never have to present your digital birth certificate to anyone. That's the essence of how we can all have privacy and accountability at the same time."
As the founder of Delphi Internet Services Corporation, which was acquired by Rupert Murdoch's News America Corp., Wes Kussmaul has been conceiving and creating secure online spaces since 1981.