Using social networks to establish a publicly verifiable level of trust…

This blog entry is used to convey my ideas around how existing social networks like Facebook can be used to establish trust on the Internet.

It’s no secret that I’m fed up with how aspects of trust and assurance are established out on the Internet. After all, I have railed against the racketeering operations public CAs operate and the ornate processes people or organizations go through to establish a level of trust/assurance with their identities. In other words, establishing trust on the Internet is broken and it really needs to be fixed.

Now, I’m not a super star developer that can code like there is no tomorrow. Therefore, I’m not the right resource to solve this issue via code. Instead, based on my past experiences, I have developed some ideas on this topic and for the past several years have been discussing those ideas with various people (you know who you are). At this point in time, I’m not even sure if people are working on solving the trust problem. Maybe there is some super-secret group at a big company or university that is on the verge of making an historic announcement. However, what I do see are more of the same solutions that are based on broken standards, lame identity schemes, black boxes, and walled gardens.

So… to address the concept of trust, what would I do? Well, I basically see the problem as one that lacks any common means for establishing if an entity is trusted. At least that is when we attempt to throw a technical solution at the problem. After all, what are technical solutions but a set of rules designed to create a structured answer to the problem that you are trying to solve. Instead, I think the way we can solve trust on the Internet is to turn to a real-world model that is based on how society in general establishes trust.

A simplistic example of this is as follows. There are three people named Ted, Bob, and Fred. Ted is friends with Bob, and Bob is friends with Fred. Ted meets Fred for the first time and based on his knowledge of Bob and Fred’s friendship will most likely make the determination to trust Fred. In other words, the level of trust associated between Bob and Fred is initially based on knowledge that is gleamed from that particular social network.

Taking this concept and expanding it into a much larger social network or social web like Facebook therefore seems only natural. Not to mention, it’s a very effective way to not only establish trust but to also associate an entity with that trust. After all, if there are a 100 different people, all connected via some social web stating that an individual or organization is highly trust worthy. I will most likely be more inclined to trust that entity over another that say only has 10 people that trust it. In other words, your standing is determined by the masses. If you wrong the masses by selling a bad product or cheating them out of money, then become untrustworthy just like in the real world. :>)

Does anyone have any comments on this? I would really like to hear if anyone is working on this. Or, would like to talk to me about working on such a solution.

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