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« I can see an article of some sort. Anyone called David? | Main | What's the use case? »

Virtual identities and LLPs

By Dave Birch posted Apr 22 2009 at 12:26 PM

[Dave Birch] Over the Burton Group, Bob Blakely has been developing a line of thinking around a particular kind of virtual identity that he has called the Limited Liability Persona, or LLP and he recently posted some ideas for more specific characteristics of such a thing that I think deserve reflection. Bob's thinking is that since the invention of the limited liability company as a distinct legal entity the economy has grown and benefited, so there might be economic advantages to recognising some form of virtual identity as a distinct legal entity.

Well, since LLPs don't really exist yet, it's hard to be too specific. But in principle an LLP is a legal entity with a name:

  1. Created by an action of a court.
  2. Owned by one or more individuals.
  3. With its own resources distinct from those of its owners.
  4. In which owners can invest new resources.
  5. With its own "identity attributes" distinct from those of its owners.
  6. Whose actions are legally distinct from those of the owners (though the owners may be held accountable for those actions.
  7. Whose resources may be transferred to its owners.
  8. Which can be sold by the owners to new owners.
  9. Whose existence can be terminated by its owners.
[From Burton Group Identity Blog: The Limited Liability Persona]

This is very close to the idea of the virtual identity bound to a digital identity that we have discussed here before but with much firmer purpose. In Europe, as is many other jurisdictions, the relevant digital signature legislation already exists so that legally-binding digital signatures can be used and by inference legally-valid digital identities created. It's easy to see how Bob's ideas can be implemented except for the transfers part. If an LLP is a virtual identity that is, in essence, a public key certificate then it cannot be transferred. It must be deleted and a new virtual identity created: so let's say there is a virtual identity "Chair of Manchester City Fan Club" that it my public key signed by Manchester City Fan Club's private key. Then, when a new Chair is elected then my certificate has to be revoked and a new certificate created (ie, the new Chair's public key signed by Manchester City Fan Club's private key). So the particular attribute "Chair of Manchester City Fan Club" ends up bound to a new digital identity (key pair).

These kinds of issues will discussed at the Identity and Privacy Forum in London on 14th-15th May and I have a delegate place to give away as a prize thanks to the generosity of my colleagues at Consult Hyperion. So if you are going to be in London on 14th and15th May and you'd like to come along to hear some of the leaders in the field discussing the topic, all you have to is help me to help Bob. He says

We know that the acronym (LLP) can easily be confused with the similar notion of a Limited Liability Partnership - so we're open to new names. If you've got a good one, drop us a line.

[From Burton Group Identity Blog: The Limited Liability Persona]

My suggestion is "virtual identity bound to a digital identity but a reputable third-party prepared to accept certain liabilities", but that doesn't trip off the tounge either. Surely someone out there can do better! The best suggestion sent to me next week will win the delegate place (I'll pass on all decent suggestions to Bob, of course). In the traditional fashion, this competition is open to all except for employees of Consult Hyperion and members of my immediate family, is void where prohibited and is projected to be carbon neutral in the near future. The prize must be claimed within three months. Oh, and no-one can win more than one of the Digital Money Blog prizes per calendar year.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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