Identity – should be more about greed than fear

I was at the Indentity2.0 Mashup* last night.  The speakers and panel session were very interesting.  That said, the balance of the discussion was on identity theft and consumer fear, and IMHO we could have done with some more time on subjects like profiling and clickstream mining.  The product and business models are much clearer in these areas and that is where I see the near term opportunity.

Going back to last night though – there was a lot of talk about how we use the same password for multiple services, OpenID, fear and confusion amongst consumers over what might happen to their identity on the web, and (repeatedly) attempts to define identity.  I took two things away from the discussion:

  • There is a general level of concern amongst consumers about what might go wrong with digital identity, but that concern is vague and unfocused – that is a difficult environment to sell product into
  • OpenID looks cool, but to get exciting from a VC/entrepreneur point of view it needs someone to use it as a foundation layer for a richer/deeper offering

As an aside there was a lot of talk about surveys and what consumers think.  In early markets I am always nervous that the answers people give to survey questions are not very indicative of what they might do or buy in the future.  Some people would go even further than that – last Friday I shared a few beers with a friend of mine who works at Saatchi here in London and his view is that the data you get from surveys is “complete tosh” – in his opinion, the only way to get good data is to run creative workshops in which you get people to design a product or service they might buy.  That makes sense to me.

The other side of identity – mining profile data to improve ad revenues – is much more exciting to me.  Most people have a negative initial reaction to this idea on privacy grounds.  It will take time to overcome this objection, but I believe that ultimately people will accept that sharing some of their data in return for better free services (or maybe even some money) is a good deal.

This is an area in which Sam Sethi has done some work and in which 121Media is operating.

Greed is always easier to tap into than fear as a driving emotion, and that is why I would head towards profiling rather than identity management as a near term opportunity.

If you would like more detail about last night Sam blogged live from the event on Vecosys where you will find a number of posts about the speakers and what they were saying.

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