Identity and Reputation in the Age of Big Data

Editor’s note: The following was written by Kord Davis from a post originally at KordIndex. Kord is the author of a forthcoming book on Ethics of Big Data. – bg

The Reputation Workshop is exploring some great topics on how identity and reputation are being influenced by big data.

Identity and reputation are two of four key elements of Big Data ethics (privacy and ownership are the other two). Great to see some insightful and collaborative discussion going on here.

I’m particularly interested in the statement that:

“Reputation is the main problem, but you can’t approach it without fixing identity. A reputation doesn’t refer to anything without a consistent identity behind it.”

That seems to assume that reputation is a characteristic assigned only to individual humans in the real world. Concepts which are conflated just a few paragraphs later with the assignment of reputation to both individual pieces of content and entire websites:

“Once it’s in place, a user signed in to will be able to judge a document’s reputation on sight or even filter a long list of documents. Participating sites will be able to stand behind their visible reputations. The Web will be less sketchy and seedy in places where clarity and transparency are needed.”

None of those seem wrong (I’m very interested in all three: the quality and trustworthiness of individuals, the content they produce, and the sites they publish on).

If identity is multi-faceted and “reputation doesn’t refer to anything without a consistent identity behind it”, then isn’t reputation also multi-faceted?

Perhaps they are not multi-faceted in the same way, but the question seems to motivate more discussion. A discussion that is important because decoupling identity and reputation from a strict 1:1 relationship creates more space for nuances in both degree and kind of influence and dependency between the two. A content author may have a sterling personal reputation associated with their identity and publish an entire article with factual errors on a website with an otherwise well-deserved reputation for accuracy. Accidents happens all the time. Providing a means for incorporating the nuances of those kind of events is critical to a trust-worthy assessment. Should such an author be “down voted” for publishing such an article? Personally, I would say it depends on their intention. Which is dicey and difficult territory to say the least.

But this simple example does seem to lend evidence to the claim that identity and reputation are more loosely coupled than a strict 1:1 identity-reputation relationship.

In any case, it’s fantastic to see this effort is alive and well.

More info on the project itself here:

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