(Part III in a series on behavioral biometrics)

At the moment I am chewing on the wording and notions used in a booklet I got as a present from a befriended colleague a few weeks ago. He handed me a copy of “Identity is the new money” written by David Birch (2014, London Publishing Partners, 104 pag.). It touches upon many topics related to both my investigations on collaborability – e.g. money, technological change, trust – and my professional interest in (crypto) currencies and payments.

Before expressing my thoughts and comments on David’s booklet I need to get a solid grip on the key notions used. The central notion, as the title underlines, is Identity.

In Davids booklet “Identity” has three distinct notions:

  1. personal/psychological identity;
  2. social identity;
  3. legal identity.

Three different concepts sharing the same noun does not imply these concepts are the same or even overlap for that matter. A “ball” is used in soccer or tennis but we also can dance at a “ball”.

The principle difference between personal/psychological and social identity on the one hand and legal identity on the other hand is that the first two notions say something about “how we are”; the latter does not at all. Your legal identity (only) links your body to a unique legal entity. Your legal identity does not say anything about you as a person and how you are at all. Vice versa your personal and social identity/identities do not have any relation to your legal identity.

“Your legal identity (only) links your body to a legal entity.”

We consider a person to be an entity which is accountable for its actions. In modern society we register persons when born. This registration creates the persons’ legal entity. We are given names, and are referred to with birth date etc. but basically our legal entity is just referred to with a unique (social security) number. From a philosophical point of view much can be said about what a person is but that is besides the point here.

You, as a human person, are – until some revolutionary technology comes along – confined to your body. This is the central notion that links accountability for actions of a person to its physical body and what in the end of the day has your body end up in jail.

For some it will seem only semantics or even trivial to make a distinction between a person (and his body) and its legal entity. Just consider your plight if you would not have a legal identity, or not being able to proof your legal identity (as many refugees have), somebody else imposing for your legal entity (identity theft) or when your identity would be withdrawn.

For all kind of actions in life we need to link our person, being our body, with the details in the register representing our legal entity. If we for example want to open a bank account we need a document (e.g., identity card or passport) to prove that the legal entity that will be responsible/liable is the person (i.e., the body) standing in front of the support desk at the bank. The document holds various elements to prove the document itself is valid and contains biometric elements (photo, and in new editions also fingerprints) to allow the cashier to check whether the person/body is the one belonging to the legal entity.

This brings us to the subject of Authentication and Identification.