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Roger Clarke's 'Identity Mythologies - 2006'

Avoid the Mythologies of Identity Control
and Rediscover a Sense of Balance and Proportion

Roger Clarke **

Version of 6 March 2006

Prepared for an invited presentation at Identity Management 2006, 7-8 March 2006, Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre

© Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 2005

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This document is at

The accompanying slide-set is at


Since 12 September 2001, we've been living in a doubly-troubled era. The discovery that terrorists were capable of more dramatic attacks than we'd all expected was a rude shock. But the much greater threat to free societies has been the ensuing, unprecedented assault on personal liberties. For several years now, authoritarianism has had the upper hand, and has been as extreme in its own way as the intolerant ethos of the religious fundamentalists.

A whole flotilla of myths has been perpetrated by national security agencies, and sponsored by governments. Over-excited vendors are pushing half-baked technologies. Fortunately for civilisation, most of them are ineffective. To the extent that these technologies work as claimed, they are far more dangerous to our society than the ills of organised crime and terrorism.

This presentation takes a new look at the nature of identities and entities, of identifiers and of identification. It debunks the myths that undermine conventional notions of identity management. It presents the realities of biometrics as an antidote to the zeal of the suppliers. And it throws into stark relief the lies that are being said about the ability of such technologies to find terrorists.

There is a real world of identity management, authentication and authorisation. It recognises the limitations of technologies. It applies risk assessment and risk management techniques. It embodies appreciation of public policy issues, and it understands that there is a fundamental need for public acceptability.

Control of public and private life by the State and large corporations is a recipe for stagnation, not just socially, artistically and politically, but also economically. The authoritarian technologies and schemes that are being presented at this event as if they represented progress, and their proponents, must be given a very cold shower, to wake them up to the realities of democratic society.


Clarke R. (1994) 'Human Identification in Information Systems: Management Challenges and Public Policy Issues' Info. Technology & People 7,4 (December 1994). At

Clarke R. (1999) 'Anonymous, Pseudonymous and Identified Transactions: The Spectrum of Choice', Proc. IFIP User Identification & Privacy Protection Conference, Stockholm, June 1999, at

Clarke R. (2001) 'Authentication: A Sufficiently Rich Model to Enable e-Business', Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, December 2001, at - a comprehesive paper

Clarke R. (2002) 'Biometrics' Inadequacies and Threats, and the Need for Regulation' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, April 2002, at

Clarke R. (2003a) 'Identification and Authentication Fundamentals' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, August 2003, at identity and authentication fundamentals

Clarke R. (2003b) 'Authentication Re-visited: How Public Key Infrastructure Could Yet Prosper' Proc. 16th Int'l eCommerce Conf., Bled, Slovenia, 9-11 June 2003, at

Clarke R. (2004a) 'Identity Management: The Technologies, Their Business Value, Their Problems, Their Prospects' Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, March 2004, 70 pp. The Executive Summary, Contents and ordering details are at

Clarke R. (2004b) 'Biometric Insecurity' Invited Presentation, Proc. AusCERT, Gold Coast, 24 May 2004, at

Additional papers on identity and authentication topics are indexed here

Background to the Presenter

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. His primary expertise is in strategic and policy aspects of eBusiness, information infrastructure, and dataveillance and privacy.

He has spent 35 years in the I.T. industry, in Sydney, London, Zürich and Canberra, as professional, manager, academic, consultant and company Director and Chair. He holds Honours, Masters and doctoral degrees in Information Systems.

He spent 1984-95 as a senior academic, and he continues as a Visiting Professor in three universities:

Fuller biodata is here.

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The content and infrastructure for these community service pages are provided by Roger Clarke through his consultancy company, Xamax.

From the site's beginnings in August 1994 until February 2009, the infrastructure was provided by the Australian National University. During that time, the site accumulated close to 30 million hits. It passed 65 million in early 2021.

Sponsored by the Gallery, Bunhybee Grasslands, the extended Clarke Family, Knights of the Spatchcock and their drummer
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Created: 1 November 2005 - Last Amended: 6 March 2006 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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