Members Blog

TruYou? No thank you.

today 09/23/2018 - Tim Leonard

In the 2017 sci-fi drama, The Circle starring Emma Watson commerce and social media are dominated by a single tech giant known as The Circle. The company is run by its genius founder played by Tom Hanks. Imagine if Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook all suddenly became one company and now you have The Circle. It is sleek, progressive, socially active and recruits only the best and brightest young tech talent to join its illustrious ranks. Everyone employed at The Circle is required to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid.  Everything seems perfect, but it does not take long to get the feeling something sinister is happening.

The Internet we use today is a vast cadre of computers, telecommunication systems, cables and satellites encircling the globe. These systems by design do not trust one another or the people that use them. Access control is the process of authenticating users on a network and then granting permission only to perform specific tasks. Most websites use a combination of username and password to verify ID and authenticate.  A Microsoft study in 2016 found the average internet user had 25 separate internet accounts andused only 6.5 passwords, so it is common for the same passwords to be used across multiple sites, a practice known as password reuse. Of course, we reuse passwords. Keeping all these passwords straight in our heads is torturous. Password complexity like the use of upper and lower case, special characters, numbers have us creating things like P@ssw0rd, a miserably common password.  When we finally settle on one we like; a company makes us change it. Therefore, we are forced to write them down, store them in a file on our computer or create a few that we can remember and reuse.

The Circle developed a revolutionary identity management system called TruYou thus solving the identity management problem forever. TruYou ties people to a single universal identity which grants them access to the entire internet. No longer would people have to store or remember all their passwords. Sounds great, right?

The username and password combination has been around for decades and unfortunately makes most people loathe security. Couple logins with Captcha and it is no wonder people would turn up in droves to get a TruYou. However delightful one ID to rule them all sounds, there is a dark side to this. The company who owns and operates the ID technology controls you. What happens if your TruYou ID gets revoked and it is the only universally acceptable form of paying for your groceries, getting on an airplane or accessing your health records? 

There are privacy and anonymity in the system that is inherently untrusting of the others. If Netflix disables your account, you can make another one under a different username. The same applies to email and most of the other websites you use on a regular basis. You can even close your bank account and go to another bank and set up an internet banking account with a different username and password. The point I am making here is you have choices.

Until TruYou comes around, you can use a password manager to store your passwords. 1Password, DashLane, and LastPass are favorite password managers. When using a password manager, you get to a point where you no longer need to know your passwords. The password manager generates passwords based on the complexity you set, and you copy and paste it into the website you need to use. Good password managers come with a browser plugin to autofill the username and password for you. Many people will use the password safe embedded in their web browser, but sometimes you need access to your passwords when you're traveling and do not have access to your computer. Most password managers give you a convenient smartphone app to store your passwords. You will want to make the password to your password vault very secure and keep it safe. Whichever password manager you settle on make sure you learn how to use it fully.  Another benefit of a password manager is it is a place your trusted loved one can go to get logins if something terrible were to happen to you. Bumping into security issues after the death of a loved one can be stressful.

Emma Watson's character realized The Circle's power and influence were growing and dangerous. The movie only got 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it is worth a watch to see how a universal ID future looks. They say life imitates art, and I hope not in this case.