Internet Driver’s License

A type of “driver’s license” for the Internet. Yeah. That’s what Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer, proposed this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

It’s not as ominous as it sounds since Mundie was suggesting a simple solution for the complex world of cybercrime, and his analogy was a “driver’s license” for the Internet.

I wasn’t in Davos, so I’ll let Time magazine’s Barbara Kiviat explain it better:

What Mundie is proposing is to impose authentication. He draws an analogy to automobile use. If you want to drive a car, you have to have a license (not to mention an inspection, insurance, etc). If you do something bad with that car, like break a law, there is the chance that you will lose your license and be prevented from driving in the future. In other words, there is a legal and social process for imposing discipline. Mundie imagines three tiers of Internet ID: one for people, one for machines and one for programs (which often act as proxies for the other two).

Now, there are, of course, a number of obstacles to making such a scheme be reality. Even here in the mountains of Switzerland I can hear the worldwide scream go up: “But we’re entitled to anonymity on the Internet!” Really? Are you? Why do you think that?

Mundie pointed out that in the physical world we are implicitly comfortable with the notion that there are certain places we’re not allowed to go without identifying ourselves. Are you allowed to walk down the street with no one knowing who you are? Absolutely. Are you allowed to walk into a bank vault and still not give your name? Hardly.

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