Before the Internet of Things, the Internet was and is a jungle of context-free adhesion contracts. There’s you, alone, and there are the websites, and we can try to make their terms and privacy policies somewhat fair, but for you it’s take it or leave it. And you long expected similar limits to your freedom from your future as a cyborg…
In fact, however, when the Borg Cube arrived, resistance turned out not to be futile; in fact resistance killed a world-changing wearable designed with the brilliance — but also the emotional intelligence about human dialogue and boundaries — of an extra-terrestrial:
Sometimes you call the resistance “privacy,” and sometimes you recognize it as the free individual customer, asserting the rights of a principal in relation to the vendor, whom you bravely reclaim as your agent in the face of the jungle of adhesion contracts. Even in that jungle, the individual buyer had the extraordinary power to defeat the extra-terrestrial product. But — Take heart, extra-terrestrials! — the extraordinary innovations that product reflects are still alive in the enterprise, where power of the individual customer is weakest!
As the piece of the Internet of Things that you choose to put on your body, or not, the “consumer” wearable is one of the best places to look for the disruption of adhesion contracts by customer choice, and for the delicate balance struck by successful products between functionality and trust so as to enable acceptance and maintain loyalty. This year I have focused on the reawakening of the customer self and revival of the customer role in response to the swarm of technology, which I call privacy. I have searched for places where you as customer can make your stand, whether on the platform of your phone, in your car, or even in the fog. The overwhelming force of the swarm led me and many of you beyond IoT platforms to defensive technology.
The story of the reawakening of the customer goes well beyond the IoT, however, into other areas we care about even more than we care about our own bodies. Take, for example, the education of our children. To me, the greatest story of customer reawakening of all is the story of the demise of InBloom, about which you can read good but insufficient accounts here and here. $100 million of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funding for innovative K-12 databases on children, their families, their lives. Deals with many states that began to fall apart when challenged by parents’ organizations. They don’t understand, said the US Department of Education; to refuse the data collection is like refusing to buy nice things because you might be robbed. But that was precisely the point: The nice things were first for vendors, bureaucrats and scholars; the program offered nothing directly and immediately to the children or the parents to help them live their lives, nothing like the red bar on my wearable that is telling me to stand up and walk around now, because I have been writing to you for too long.
When the going gets tough in the Internet’s jungle of adhesion contracts, in the IoT’s swarm or in the faceless, data-sucking educational bureaucracy, the customer will increasingly take advantage of what that great prophet of customer reawakening, Doc Searls, called a “fourth party,” and what the heroic leaders of the Kantara Initiative’s User Managed Access (“UMA”) Working Group — including but not limited to Eve Maler, Thomas Hardjono, Maciej Machulak, Adrian Gropper, James Hazard and Dazza Greenwood — are making real and concrete as the “authorization server.” At a very high level, the fourth party and authorization server are agents and fiduciaries of the customer for identity and sharing, but also for the expression of intention much more broadly in the marketplace, and therefore the key to the establishment and maintenance of integrated customer identity in the broadest sense in the face of ever-greater complexity.
The failures of Glass for individuals and of InBloom reveal a tipping point. Having seen that tipping point, you might want to take another look as a customer at the ocean of vendors and their unknown subcontractors and partners, at the jungle of websites, at the swarm of things and at the leviathan of government, and observe the ways in which their CRM systems try to own you, and their contractual and other legal duties are principally to one another rather than to you. As a vendor, I look forward to meeting your UMA authorization server or other fourth party in the marketplace of ideas, and then in the marketplace.
The fourth party and authorization server are agents and fiduciaries of the customer for identity and sharing, but also for the expression of intention much more broadly in the marketplace, and therefore the key to the establishment and maintenance of integrated customer identity in the broadest sense in the face of ever-greater complexity.