Consumption: The Future of Identification Verification
I hate carrying things. I frequently get locked out of my dorm because I forget my keys. I can’t always pay for dinner because I have left my credit card at home. I’ve been turned around at airports because my passport is nowhere to be seen. To me, the future of the internet is one central device, connecting to a cloud that contains all of your information, leaving the era of losing your keys far in the past.
But now, you might be asking yourself: what kind of information can get stored on this kind of device, and what would it actually change about our lives?
Keys becoming electronic (i.e., fobs) is a primary example of how much in our life can change with this type of technology. When you lose physical keys, you have to replace the locks – this takes time and, often, a significant amount of money. Now, you just have to cancel the key’s access to the lock when it becomes necessary. This type of key also solves concerns about giving people temporary access to certain buildings. For instance, if a company only wants its building to be open from 9-5, an electronic key can prevent their employees from accessing the building until those hours.
However, while this makes buildings more secure, the person who is in charge of allowing people access to their building has more power than they originally had, as they can revoke that access at any time. Landlords, for example, could abuse this power, and force tenants out of their apartments, or even prevent them from getting their mail at will (Alfred Ng, 2019). Currently, there is not very much legislation to prevent this abuse of power, but as we advance more (technologically), there will be more laws protecting the individuals’ rights in cases like these.
Keys, although interesting to talk about, are not the only thing this technology would affect. Recently, while I was boarding a plane, instead of scanning my boarding pass, I was asked to look into a camera, which scanned my face. On the screen, my name and seat number popped up, and I was allowed to board. This made me think: what really is a boarding pass other than a method of verification of my identity? And what else functions similarly? The possibilities are endless: hotel room keys, theme park passes, credit cards, and so much more. In their essence, all of these things are just used to verify that the person using them is who they say they are. In the past, these items were all physical, and had to be verified by many sources in order to be considered valid. However, if they are just automatically tied to your ID (like many of them now are), they no longer have to be so thoroughly vetted. In the future, if all of these things are linked, most transactions and actions of the like would become easier and more secure.
Now comes a big question – where would this technology come from? In the future, Blockchain (which primarily plays a role in cryptocurrency systems) could be a major player in this type of device. Blockchain is essentially a “shared database or ledger.” It collects information in blocks, that each have a certain amount of storage capacity, and once that capacity is reached, the block closes, and is linked to the previously filled block. This chain (called a blockchain) “makes an irreversible timeline of data when implemented in a decentralized nature.” Because of this, the data cannot be tampered with – added or destroyed. Throughout our lifetime, we are constantly accumulating data about ourselves. We live in different places, have different jobs, go to different schools, and in each of those times in our lives, we have different methods of identification that we use. Blockchain is a quick and convenient way of storing and using that information as we move throughout our lives.
An interesting ramification of using Blockchain, though, is that it records everything. If a person’s identity is tied to this technology, everywhere they go, and every purchase that they make will be recorded and is unable to be deleted or tampered with. This can be a good thing. It would make it easier to solve certain crimes, and for parents to be able to track their kids. However, not everyone wants a permanent record of their whole lives, and for someone to be able to know exactly where they are at all times (a fair concern in my opinion). Overall, even with these (and I’m sure, other) drawbacks, I firmly believe that this is where the internet is heading, and it will vastly improve (at least my own) quality of life.
Hayes, Adam. 2022. “Blockchain Facts: What is it, How it Works, How it can be Used.” Investopedia, June 24, 2022. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blockchain.asp.
Ng, Alfred. 2019. “Tenants worry smart-home tech could be abused by landlords.” CNET, April 4, 2019. https://www.cnet.com/home/smart-home/tenants-worry-smart-home-tech-could-be-abused-by-landlords/.