Identity is one of our most fundamental human rights. Yet, in the age of surveillance, commodification and centralization, it is under threat. Edward Snowden said it best, “.”
If the “State is the monopoly on violence,” as Max Weber once defined it, then the surveillance state (or surveillance capital) is the monopoly on identity. In this time of rising surveillance capitalism, entrenched surveillance states and, more recently, the plutocracy of blockchain networks, this monopoly has never been more important to break. Despite the growing public awareness of these issues, there is little discussion of the fact that these seemingly disparate phenomena all trace back to identity. Authentication systems are the key pathway through which these networks lock-in their subjects into extractive, scarcity-based, economic and social contracts.
Major internet platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google established themselves partially by achieving a sufficient level of consensus over their legitimacy as credential providers – taking over a role that has, in the modern era, been the exclusive purview of the state. Despite their many faults, Web 2.0 platforms formed a new, networked social infrastructure for humanity, or a layer of trust where a myriad of social applications were built.