PICTURE THE SCENE: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is sitting quaffing Belgium beer with MasterCard boss Ajaypal Singh Banga, and they're having some larks. Banga turns to Nadella: "What if we could track people with but one digital identity?". Nadella rubs his scalp: "We must have a soooolllllution for that."
At least that how we think it came about that Microsoft and MasterCard are working together to create a "universally-regionalised digital identity".
The premise behind such a partnership is to make proving one's identity online a less arduous task of tapping in addresses and digging up passport numbers, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Instead, Microsoft and MasterCard want to have a way to provide people with a single, secure and instant way of identifying themselves online for whatever they want, whenever they want it.
"Today's digital identity landscape is patchy, inconsistent and what works in one country often won't work in another. We have an opportunity to establish a system that puts people first, giving them control of their identity data and where it is used," says Ajay Bhalla, president, cyber and intelligence solutions, MasterCard.
"Working with Microsoft brings us one step closer to making a globally interoperable digital identity service a reality, and we look forward to sharing more very soon."
Sounds good in practice, but as we're fans of Black Mirror here, our imaginations immediately jump to the dark side of tech, whereby Microsoft and MasterCard become a superpower by controlling people's access to online things by the simple virtue of holding their identity in a vice-like digital grip.
Now that might seem like an extreme and fanciful case of tech dystopia, and of course, it is. But there's arguably a risk that if a database of secured identities gets compromised, suddenly people could find themselves without a digital identity and thereby locked out of their favourite online services or getting defrauded by cyber crooks.
Imagine you've been enjoying signing into stuff willy-nilly using a single digital ID, only to have it compromised or simply borked by a service outage leaving you unable to log into to Netflix and thus get stick with....*shudder*....terrestrial TV.
That being said many of us probably use the same password for online services or have tools to carry out easy sign-ins to online services, so a more high-tech take on digital identity protected by a firm that knows a lot about delivering services at scale and another that has facilitated robust and secure transactions, is probably no bad thing.
Also, stuff like tokenisation can obfuscate compromising details and data while still acting as a means to securely log in and authorise stuff, so our knee-jerk reaction could be a load of bollocks.
And the whole thing is under development, so we don't have to worry about a Microsoft-MasterCard data-sucking powerhouse coming for our privacy, personal info, and freedom.; at least not yet. µ
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