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.
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.