Why don’t I control who I am?

Especially online where it is easy?

It was late 2014 and I was making preparations to move back from the UK to Vancouver after 3 years running the EMEA operations for a software company.  It was a frustrating time as I moved not only my physical stuff back to Canada I was also moving my digital life back to Canada as well.

Think about packing up all your stuff and moving it 7,500 kms to another continent.  You would think think the physical move would be the most difficult thing, right? Wrong!  Moving my furniture was easy. Moving my digital life was hard.

The Internet will make your life easier?

Re-starting my digital life in Canada was rough. I needed new bank accounts, new credit cards a new mobile phone plan and a new driver’s license.  Then I needed to shut down all my UK accounts and transfer all the information to my Canadian accounts. I needed Royal Mail to forward my main to Canada Post.

How hard could it be? It’s all online right? Visit a few websites, change a few details — done.  Nope, it was a total gong show! I had to change my address with everyone and to do that I needed to visit all their websites.

It took me about a week to shut down my UK life and another week to set up my Canadian life. Moving my digital life too much longer than moving my physical life.

Why is managing a digital life so hard?

Keep the change

Why did I have to prove who I was to every different website? Each of them ask for my personal contact information and sometimes even my credit card number to verify my identity.  

Proving my identity online or anywhere for that matter is a problem. When I moved, I had to prove my identity to a hundred different websites to access my own personal identity information. The disconnect between my online life and physical life is surreal.

Who are you?

We are not really us, especially online.  We are a grouping of database records containing things like name, address, telephone number, credit card number and birth date.  Many copies of this information are stored in multiple databases by multiple websites with differing levels of data security.

The good folks at Lastpass and other single sign on providers have got your back on this — somewhat.  If you go to yet another website (theirs), set up yet another account (with them), provide them all your personal information and click ‘I agree’, you’re allowing yet another company to exploit your information for their profit.  

This is madness!

Surely it is more efficient and makes much more sense to have one true copy of my contact information. When I change my address in this one true copy, shouldn’t it update everyone else’s records?  

Surely in today’s smartphone-connected world, I should be the final arbiter of who is me on the Internet.