Fractionating Identity

A presentation to the first MIT Legal Hackathon, in February 2013.

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Lockstep’s work on Digital Identity has converged — from the theoretical perspectives of memetics and ecology, and the practical work we’re doing in national identity frameworks — onto the idea of Fractionating Identity, that is, breaking compound identities into their elemental parts. One upshot is a proposal to build claims verification services instead of identity providers, following the precedent of the Australian government’s Document Verification Service.

Stephen was invited to present these ideas to the first “Legal Hackathon” held at MIT’s Media Labs in February. This presentation summarises his critique of orthodox federated identity, the unexpected legal complexities created when we over-federate, and shows hos identity-as-relationship inevitably means different things to different Relying Parties. The “fine print” in any digital identity evolves to suit distinct ecological niches, and makes federation easier said than done.

A set of annotated slides are attached below. Stephen’s video introduction, and a set of talking slides are available at

Lockstep Fractionating Identity MIT Legal Hackathon Jan2013 (1 1lo) Annotated Slides