Comments: Getting Out in Front of Financial Privacy

Where does one begin to start? "Over the last 30 days..."

This has been predicted and predictable. The security industry has been rendered irrelevant to the question of privacy by the demands of banks.

It is curious that in the last decade there was an explosion of interest in privacy enhancing financial products. So much so that we even have a name for it, financial cryptography.

What happened to all that energy? Well, unfortunately, it promised to lower costs dramatically, and that is something that scares the big financial players.

To be fair, one can understand their fears. Why put in place a system that lowers costs by 10-fold, thus inevitably resulting in a 10-fold fall in revenues? What board of what financial institution would sanely court the reduction in profits that results from saving so much money?

The retail finance system of the USA is built on the single brick of identity. Like no other, in the US, your meatspace true name rules your ability to walk into any store.

It is no suprise to financial cryptographers that this reliance on a single, pervasive, simple tool results in a single, pervasive, simple problem: identity theft.

One can rail against the institutional momentum that carried the USA down this path, but in a sense it is inevitable. Identity obviously made a lot of money. Consumers in the US accepted it (unlike elsewhere) because it gave them a lot of benefit.

How this gets unravelled ... or indeed if it gets unravelled, will be the great retail finance question of the next decade.

Posted by Ian Grigg at October 9, 2003 10:05 AM
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