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June 18, 2012

UnboundID Pulls Back the Curtain on the 'Identity Economy'

By Carrie Schmelkin, TMCnet Web Editor

You probably don’t think twice about filling out your date of birth on Facebook (News - Alert), delineating past job experiences on LinkedIn or listing your interests on blogs and Twitter. But every time you do, you are not only supplying the social networking moguls with your most personal data, but you are also unknowingly signing your name to that dotted line that allows these companies to profit off of your identity.

So how does this cycle stop? By informing the consumer.

“We believe in very profoundly something we call the identity economy; we believe that there will be an economy that develops around the buying and selling of identity,” Andy Land (News - Alert), vice president of marketing for UnboundID, told TMCnet at Cloud Expo East 2012 in New York last week. “Very few people participate in it, and the most important people not participating in it are you and me.”

“Facebook doesn’t make it clear that it gives you these applications so it can sell your data,” he added. “We call this a shadow economy, but we believe there is an opportunity for telcos and financial companies – those who have personal data – to become an identity broker or provider.”

“There are opportunities for telcos to become trusted providers of identity since you already give them your data to use their service but they could take it further,” he added. And the way they could do that is by becoming identity providers who take care of identity in a trusted, respected way for the user that also involves the user.

For the past three-and-a-half years, UnboundID (News - Alert) has become an emerging leader in the field of next-generation identity management. Its Directory Services solutions help organizations deliver more revenue-generating applications while significantly lowering their costs for delivery, according to company officials.

UnboundID works to help companies create a unified customer profile so that no matter what part of the company is dealing with the customer, all the information on the prospect is available.

While UnboundID was largely focused on targeting telcos, cloud providers and enterprises six months ago when TMCnet met up with the company in California, recently the company has also been spreading the word about the burgeoning “identity economy.”

“You have a user and you have to identify them and capture information about them and have to make data available to lots of different applications – some within the cloud and some within the enterprise and it’s about how do you do that the right way,” Land said. “How do you make user experience better, your products better, how do we delight our customers, and how do we make that experience better?”

According to Land, identity can be three things. First, it can be an enabler as it enables better products, services, and experiences. Second, identity can serve a currency in that it can be used as a payment such as trading your identity for an application. And, finally, as Google (News - Alert) and Facebook have demonstrated, identity can become a product. So with identity becoming a three-headed figure, it is more important than ever that businesses manage identity in a reputable manner.

“We are a big believer in if this is going to work the user needs to be involved,” Land said. “We need to give them the ability to choose where their identity lives and who is using their identity. What we are really good at is storing identity data and making it highly available and now that is becoming highly relevant. This topic has become pretty profound because people realize identity data is something special. If it’s leveraged well this identity economy will become a big economy.”

As UnboundID looks ahead to the rest of 2012, the company will continue to focus on this identity economy as well as another topic it believes will become increasingly relevant – informed consent. According to Land, while we all give our consent when we sign up for social sites such as Google and Facebook, we are not informed as to what exactly we are giving consent for.

There’s an opportunity there, said Land, as it raises the issue of how do we move from consent to informed consent and how do we help understand what is happening.

“We are looking into consent management,” said Land, noting that before companies become an identity broker, they have to capture the attention of users around their data and need to be able to inform customers about how they want to use the data.

“It’s about how do we manage personal data in the right way but not inhibit commerce,” Land said. “… Everything we are doing in our product set is built towards the vision. The pond we are fishing in is guys large enough to pull this off, the telcos and cloud guys – guys that have scale and lots of users and lots of data about users. Anything that you consider a valuable piece of that customer relationship becomes part of the identity economy. We are not there yet, but this is one of those things that will play out in the next few months.”

Edited by Rich Steeves
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