Identity Management at NGE 2008

We had a really good discursive session on identity management and how it relates to reputation on the web at  NGE 2008 . The driver for the session at the event came from Lawrie’s post on Managing Online Identity, although it’s something we have been talking about for a while.

The session explored issues of how practitioners might deal with identity management in the context of what JISC was aiming to do over the next few years and in the context of their own academic or professional reputation on the web.

I kicked the session off by outlining how identity was now crucial in online environments. I emphasised this with a a quote from Wendy Fonarow, Professor of Anthropology at UCLA:

‘To have a great cyber identity you have to record events and put them on your page. So your life in the real world is a way of gathering material for your online persona. In a way you’re not really present at all.’

Using a number headlines from the popular media, I gave examples ranging from how Internet Security company, Sophos used a frog character to elicit personal identity details from people in Facebook as part of a campaign to raise the security issues to the unfortunate case of Simon Bunce, who was accused of being part of a paedophile ring as a result of having his identity stolen. These examples served to illustrate that a person’s identity is vital to how they are perceived by others and the importance of identity management.

This then took me on to explain the four key drivers for JISC’s identity management work

  • The launch of UK Access Management Federation, meaning more stringent identity management is needed for institutions to meet the terms and conditions of joining the federation.
  • The increasing use of online tools is demanding more sophisticated identity management.
  • Institutions are asking for help and advice in dealing with identity.
  • Students and staff are asking for help and advice in dealing with identity.

Based on these drivers, I outlined JISC’s current work, which includes:

  • At an institutional level, the Identity Project looked at how identity is being covered in institutions through a detailed survey and audits of 10 representative institutions. The end result was a series of reports on identity management and an audit guide so that audits can be carried out at any institution;
  • At a student level the FLAME project is looking at how students manage their personal information and how much information they are prepared to give for certain resources;
  • In terms of contextualizing what is being done on identity there are projects within the information environment and e-learning areas to understand what the needs are for identity management;

This then fed into a slide on the three areas JISC intends to focus on for future work:

  • Raising awareness of identity through events such as NGE and the JISC Conference and more regional events to start putting identity management on the agenda;
  • Capacity building, to help get more people able to deal with identity in institutions, both at a technology and socio-cultural level in areas such as training;
  • Providing resources – this is already in evidence with the Identity Project audit and a report on OpenID due in the early summer;

Lawrie then led a series of interactive discussions looking at how reputation can be directly linked to identity management. Delegates started with a short exercise, looking each other up on the web using just three tags. These could be very simple so, for example, ‘Lawrie Phipps’, ‘JISC’, ‘Disability’ would find work that Lawrie had done. Somewhat ironically, the exercise provided very accurate results for most delegates and what they were portrayed as they imagined they should be. This is due to Google prioritizing academic results. Lawrie commented that the same exercise with students produced results that were, perhaps, not as complementary and included some Facebook results they would rather not have seen.Both sides of this exercise made the points:

  • You might not always get what you want on the web about yourself;
  • You might well get what you want on the web if you’re an academic and you manage your personal information carefully;
  • Web credibility is important and that can be by saying both good things about yourself and showing your lighter side – good credibility doesn’t have to be boring;
  • There is a lot of information on the web and it might not all be accurate about you. There is the potential to have a lot of dotsam (link), or material that was created by or about you that is no longer relevant; this is particularly applicable to forum content or out of date profiles on a CMS;
  • Some information may not be as well presented as it could be;

A short discussion then went on to look at what employers might use the web for and an interesting debate ensued about whether employers should or should not google potential employees. Universities generally do not allow information about candidates from the web to influence the recruitment decision; but many people admit there is a temptation to ‘google’ the candidate. The point being made was that your personal profile and what you post is just as accessible as your professional profile so it’s important to be aware of that and ensure that there is balance about what you say and that you’re happy for it to be there.

Lawrie listed the top 10 employer turnoffs and alongside the fairly obvious ones (recreational drug use) were ones that might not be quite so obvious such as membership of silly groups on Facebook. In the case of the latter, Lawrie raised the example of a group that was formed of alumni from one university denigrating those of another university in the same town; if you were part of that group, would you be employed by the institution you were denigrating if they knew?

The delegates then drew up a short list of what potential ‘turn-offs’ might be for someone interviewing for someone in an academic position.

  • Plagiarism
  • Inconsistency of work (sudden shift in research area for no apparent reason)
  • Too consistent!
  • Citing David Icke (as an illustration of, perhaps, an inappropriate reference)
  • All blogs and no papers (or perhaps vice versa in the current information age)
  • Bad spelling (for which there was a general mumbling of agreement from the academic contingent)

The session finished with some ‘top tips’ for managing identity online and there was subsequent discussion on personas and online identity through the rest of the day.

It is proposed that to take this topic forward a group is formed to discuss identity management within the realm of users and innovation. The results from this can then be fed into a wiki and help inform future JISC work on identity. This is part of a broader initiative to help raise awareness of identity amongst those who use it and to help identity practitioners get input into their work.

Watch this space and please comment on whether you think the group above is a good idea!

4 thoughts on “Identity Management at NGE 2008

  1. lawrie

    Hi James
    Just a reminder that I would like to be included on the list for the group

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