I Am Who I Am: Honesty Online

I am who I am. And I have the document to prove it.

What I have is a credential that verifies I’m the person they call Craig Stoltz. I’m not someone pretending to be me, and I am not traveling under an alias. Oh, and I haven’t committed any crimes, including any of that sex crime stuff. Absolutely clean.

Honestly, it\'s me

I got this seal of approval from Honesty Online, a web service that verifies people’s identities and provides basic background checks. It’s tailored for use on social network sites, especially online dating sites, where people are known to play unsavory games of “pretend.”

It’s designed to let people show the world they are who they say–and invite others to infer they are honest, forthright and diligent people.

It’s not like VeriSign or GeoTrust, which are designed for commercial operations. And it’s not like those digital private-eye, security clearance or job background check services. Honesty Online is more like verification of good personal identity hygiene.

The online certification process is far cooler than I expected.

I provided name, age, address and credit card number. Ten seconds later the system had verified that a real person has a record of existence under that name.

The essential second step–verifying that I, the guy at the computer, was that existing person–came after a five-question quiz appeared on the screen. This was the wicked cool part. The multiple choice questions, which I had two minutes to answer, asked me to identify two addresses I’d lived at, a city I’d owned property in, one place I’d worked and (a bit unsettlingly) the age range of one of my kids.

I had this weird and wonderful swoon of data-driven nostalgia. Remember that basement apartment I’d lived in when I was in grad school? That lousy job I held for just one year? Our first house! (Um, how old’s my kid again?)

I’m sure this system, like any ID service, can be spoofed, its credentials somehow counterfeited by someone with enough time on his hands and some sinister motivation. But I did come away convinced that only I could have answered those questions within two minutes, and that the credential had real value.

As for the business prospects: I suspect that if a dating site can achieve a critical mass of people who display this credential with their profiles, not having the credential could become a liability for individuals. [What, you couldn’t pass? Don’t want to spring for the 10 bucks to prove your bona fides?] This could lead to broad adoption.

[Actually, price will vary with each partner.]

And sites that provide the service for all members could gain a competitive advantage for having a social group cleaner than most.

Other uses? People could verify their Facebook profiles or other social network personas. LinkedIn professional sites? Possibly.

Now that I’m certified, I can stick my badge on my blog, to prove to the world that I am who I claim to be and have not committed any crimes other than those I commit in writing.

But I could post a picture of me that made me look like Patrick Dempsey–or Curly Howard for that matter.

Honesty Online can’t verify photos. Yet.

Explore posts in the same categories: social networks, Uncategorized, Web 2.0

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10 Comments on “I Am Who I Am: Honesty Online”

  1. Shane McDaniel Says:

    This questioning system is used by a number of banking sites to verify your identity also. I guess they get access to most of it with an auto credit report.

  2. Phil Baumann Says:

    Very cool, thanks for posting.

    I think you’re right about the business possibilities. Identity is really way behind and needs some serious catch up. Identity 2.0 is around the corner with projects like Dick Hardt’s Sxip Idenity (you could start Identity 2.Oh…Really!)

    I’ll have to check it out & see if I am who I say I am. But: what do I do if I’m not?

  3. Craig Stoltz Says:

    If you discover you’re not who you say you are, that’s easy: Just go into a witness protection program. They’ll never find “you.”


  4. […] Web 2.Oh … Really?) May 8, 2008, by aaron. Permalink. Comments RSS. Bookmark/Share.a2a_linkname=”Who are […]

  5. Steven Says:

    Indentity 2.0 is much more professional than honestyonline or any other numerous startups out there. Do you want a professionally run company or one thats fun when checking out your past records. Hey Craig, it sounds like you work for hoenstyonline. That or you just have a lot of free time on your hands. Perdiction: The goverment will allow these sites access to the info directly, whereby making it free to all. No one should have to pay to confirm info the is already in the public eye. All of these companies are just trying to make a quick buck off social networkers.

  6. Craig Stoltz Says:

    Steven–

    You’re absolutely right that many companies offer more robust and sophisticated identity verification systems. If I needed bona-fide, dead-certain, high-stakes, 99.9999 percent accuracy verification, for myself or others, I’d use one of them. Honesty is a low-cost service that will help people using dating sites feel more confident about the “reality” of who they’re communicating with. For that, I think Honesty is a good solution. And a hoot to use.

    For more demanding enterprise, government or law enforcement needs, not so much.

    As for government creating a kind of public access personal data aggregation program that would make these enterprises obsolete. . . that becomes a larger discussion about the government role in publishing (or, in this case, republishing) personal data in a public forum.

    Of course, if all that stuff was easily available from a free public source, you’d be able to determine that I *don’t* work for Honesty Online!

    As for whether I have too much time on my hands. . .Hey, I’m a blogger. How busy could I be?

    Again, thanks for the comment, and take care.

  7. Larry Cynkin Says:

    Steven — I don’t know what you mean by Identity 2.0. Dick Hardt and others have defined it as user-centric portability of one’s digital identity across the web. In this Identity 2.0 vision, there might be many credential providers for different identity attributes.

    Identity 2.0 remains an un-realized vision. If and when it becomes reality, Honesty Online fully intends to become an Identity 2.0-compatible credential provider. In the meantime, out of the many identity issues out there, Honesty Online solves an important one, today — allowing a user to get their real-life (as opposed to “digital” ) identity and background verified for the benefit of others online.

    I don’t know how to compare our “professionalism” to “Identity 2.0”, which after all is an infrastructure vision and not a company or even a specific technology. I can assure you that at Honesty Online, we use the leading identity and background data sources, derived from public and non-public information, and take very seriously the notion of security and privacy. To answer your question, I’d say that I want an identity-verification service that’s both professionally run AND fun to use.

    Regards,

    Larry Cynkin
    CTO, Honesty Online


  8. […] Identity 2.0, natural identity Honesty Online was recently the subject of a flattering post on Web2.Oh…really?. A comment on this post highlighted the degree of confusion around online identity, identity […]


  9. […] Honesty is the best policy, which is a phrase that has been around for longer that I have. Yet the Internet has not been around for longer than me so why does it apply so much to the online world? Honesty belongs and lives inside humans so no matter where humans go even if it is to a online world honesty and truth will always follow. From the class slides I found a quote Professor Abel put up as most intriguing on the subject. “Last but not least, be honest and respect the rules of the game … Never expect that other participants may not find out who stands behind some anonymous user account; after all, you’re dealing with some of the most technologically sophisticated people on the planet” (pg 67). This quote shows that no matter what humans must have order in any world we live in. There is always a good guy and a bad guy one checking after the other and keeping order and balance. There are websites that use a checking system online to ensure you do not plagiarize papers from online or text sources in order to stabilize the mass text sharing that happens online. […]


  10. Have you ever considered writing an ebook or guest authoring on other websites?

    I have a blog centered on the same subjects you discuss and would love to have
    you share some stories/information. I know my readers would appreciate your work.

    If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me
    an e-mail.


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