Our Fickle Identity Crisis

An observation on the heels of (yet another) Facebook privacy shake-up:

Web users are fickle when it comes to our identity. We have very conflicting desires.

Desire 1 – Know Who I Am
Please instantly know who I am. I hate logging in with some password I created a long time ago and can’t remember. I’m me, Kris. Whether I’m buying something, checking sports scores, commenting on some blog, or communicating with friends, know who I am!

Desire 2 – Please Don’t Invade My Privacy
I don’t trust you. You seem to be getting too much power. You tend to know who I am on every site I go to. You’re tracking me, my every move. You don’t seem to understand that’s my data that you own. Why are the pair of shoes I just looked at on Zappos an ad on a NY Times article about crappy Republican presidential candidates? And then how did that article show up in my Facebook newsfeed? You know too much! I’m quitting your service because you’ve crossed the line.

The Outcome

One of the biggest shifts on the Internet in the coming years will be a consolidated identity. The government wants it, and our social networks, tools, and entertainment hubs want it.

As a developer, I welcome it. My life is easier because one of the greatest hurdles to my application’s / service’s / site’s success is overcoming the on-boarding experience.

As a web user, I’m terrified. I feel as if my digital soul is being sucked dry.

As a businessman, I know it’s coming. I know that, for a fact, every large company who wants to be anything has one large objective: obtain a list of every human.

I wonder how all developers and web users will react when that day comes. They’ll probably be appalled that their privacy and sense of self has been digitally breached. But then they’ll be upset they need to reset their password again on the latest cool site that doesn’t use Facebook to authenticate because those developers understand and don’t want to be a part of the social giant’s web of prying eyes. Oh, we’re so fickle.