Justice-scales

This is the fifth and final post in a series about the Principles of Personal. See also:

When New Zealander Phil Sole pulled off the feat of guessing all five Principles of Personal after only our second blog post, what most surprised us is that he managed to guess the final “P”: Proof. After all, what does “proof” have to do with personal networking?

The answer is “everything” if you frame the question this way:

If the first four Principles of Personal are a promise of permission, protection, and portability, how do I know if another member of a personal network will keep that promise?

In short, you need proof—some evidence that another member of the network is going to live by that promise. Proof of past behavior, credentials and references is an essential component in trust decisions.

And for trust decisions made online, where the Internet often lacks the many trust signals present in real-world contexts, it becomes even more important. That’s why reputation systems have become nearly ubiquitous across major e-commerce, search, and social sites—everything from Google’s PageRank to eBay’s buyer/seller feedback system to Slashdot’s Karma social news moderation and Facebook’s Like button.

Social networks abound in a particular form of social proof—the friend or follower relationships that members publicly display. So a similar form of social proof should work for a personal network. The key difference is that for a personal network, where every individual has control of their own personal data (see the First Principle), the trust fabric must be rooted directly in individuals. In other words, a personal network must operate as a peer-to-peer web of trust.

However peer-to-peer trust networks have a well-known problem, the Sybil attack, named after the famous case of multiple personality disorder. In short, they can be gamed by creating fake accounts (“sock puppets”) unless the network has established a known set of trusted members called trust anchors. In conventional PKI systems, the trust anchors are usually government agencies or large companies.

But on a personal network, they must be… people.

People who share the five Principles of Personal in the Respect Trust Framework:

A promise of permission, protection, portability, and proof.

We’re excited to share that the launch of the Connect.Me trust anchor program is right around the corner.  Stay tuned for a big announcement in May.  If you want to be one of the first to know the details, please follow us on Twitter @respectconnect.