OpenBadges: The Deleterious Effects of Mistaking Security for Trust

What is the relationship between trust and security, security and privacy, privacy and personal data protection? For some time now, I knew that there was something wrong with the so-called trust technologies, but I did not take the time to pin down what the source of the problem was. Apart from rechristening them as distrust technologies, I did not make the effort to explore any further the matter. Here are two excerpts from previous posts:

Is there an escape from an alternative that can only lead to an escalation in the development of distrust technologies? in Why Open Badges Could Kill the Desire to Learn?

One of the most interesting and undervalued features of the Open Badge Infrastructure is trust: I have commented before that there is a risk for the Open Badges’ pretty pictures to become what the proverbial tree is to the forest of trust. I’ve also written that OBI is a native trust infrastructure, while most of the so-called trust architectures would be better described as distrust architectures (in a native trust environment, trust is by default, while distrust is generated by experience; in a distrust environment distrust is by default while trust is generated by experience). in Punished by Open Badges?

Designing Principles for a (dis)Trusted Environment

What brought me to explore further the issue of trust and security was the participation at a workshop organised by the Aspen Institute at SXSWedu 2015. The participants were invited to produce a series of scenarios eliciting the design principles of a trusted [digital] environment. The workshop took place the day following a session on “Designing Principles for a Trusted Environment” during which the winners of the DML Trust Challenge were announced.

While the challenge we were invited to address was the design of a trusted environment what struck me in most of the proposed scenarios was that they did exactly the opposite: they designed an environment where distrust was the founding principle. The designing principles for a distrusted environment were:

If you have a problem with trust the solution is increased control and security measures.

While this principle might sound fine to the superficial reader, the problem is that it reveals a misconception of what trust is about and, consequently, on how to deal with situations where low levels of trust are an issue. While both trust and security are related to safety, they are at the two ends of a spectrum.

While one can take security measures, send security forces, one cannot take trust measures and send trust forces. Security is something you can do to things, trust is something you can only get from within. Mistaking one for the other, trust for security, could (and generally does) have deleterious effects on trust.

Continue reading

The New Internet of Subjects Manifesto

After the Internet of Subjects Forum London (5 July 2010) Graham Sadd wrote in his blog: Violent Agreement Breaks Out at IoS Forum.

This was echoed in the final session of the 8th ePortfolio conference ( when Derrin Kent offered to invite the Mahara open source ePortfolio community to integrate the idea of separation between data, metadata and ePortfolio services. We hope that more ePortfolio providers will support this model, which should lead to greater interoperability across systems and organisations, whilst increasing control by individuals of the exploitation of their personal data. It is a path to creating true personal lifelong learning environments.
One of the next documents to be produced is a New Internet of Subjects Manifesto, based on the ‘7 IoS principles‘. It will be a response to the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (USA).
A simple analysis of the NSTIC document reveals that:
  1. there is not a single reference to (personal) data storage
  2. there is one single reference to publish[ing] private information
  3. there is no reference to ‘discoverability’
  4. the word ‘relationship’ is only used 3 times

10 ePortfolio challenges

For the 7th ePortfolio conference, and in order to give directions to our work towards our 2010 goal (ePortfolio for all), EIfEL decided to address a number of challenges to the ePortfolio community and beyond —many of the problems the ePortfolio community faces today will not be resolved if they are not addressed beyond the ePortfolio silo. The goal of these challenges is to move beyond the current state of ePortfolio development, in particular in the field of interoperability as interoperability is not just a technical issue, but a means to enable new practices and the emergence of truly lifelong and life wide ePortfolios.

The ten challenges are:
  1. Universal ePortfolio Repository —a unified view of all my assets
  2. Universal Competency Identifiers —share competency definitions across systems
  3. ePortfolio social —share assets, knowledge and processes across communities
  4. ePortfolio semantic editors —make sense of what I write, connect, etc.
  5. ePortfolio Readers —read any ePortfolio through consistent and multiple views
  6. Open & Trusted Service Architecture
  7. ePortfolio based performance support system —make the ePortfolio part of my work
  8. ePortfolio discovery mechanism —find people, competencies, resources
  9. URIs as tags —make tags meaningful
  10. Universal Metadata —create a world brain

Our main objective is to create the conditions for the emergence of MultiPortfolio organisations (one organisation can interact with many different ePortfolio platforms) and MultiOrganisation ePortfolios (have one ePortfolio to interact with many different institutions with their own platform).

Challenges’ link

Other documents related to the challenges are:

EIfEL becomes a MultiplePortfolio (MeP) organisation

Until now, the issue of ePortfolio interoperability was mainly considered within the framework of documents export/import, hence the focus on data structures and the lack of appetite, except for EIfEL and very few others, to fully embrace identity and access management (IAM) as the central locus for ePortfolio interoperability.

In order to contribute actively to the design of state of the art interoperability solutions, EIfEL has decided to become a MultiplePortfolio (MeP) organisation, i.e. an organisation where each of our member will be able to choose their own ePortfolio platform while still being able to fully interact with the organisation and their peers to support their continuing professional development and recognition as professional members of the learning community. In doing so, EIfEL aims at being a life testbed, a benchmark for interoperability.

As an organisation wishing to represent all the actors of the ePortfolio community, unlike other organisations, it was not possible for EIfEL, even if we have our personal likes and dislikes, to select a particular platform to support the continuing professional development of our members. Moreover, many of our members already have their own ePortfolio system that they use within their organisation or institution and several already have to deal with multiple ePortfolio systems — e.g. a member of the Institute for Learning (IfL) who uses REFLECT, based on PebblePad, for his/her CPD might work at a college using eXact Portfolio to support teaching and Multi-Port to support the delivery of NVQs (just to name the 3 Gold sponsors of the 2009 Learning Forum London conference!).

Committed to become a fully functional MultiplePortfolio organisation, EIfEL will work with all the ePortfolio and learning technology publishers and providers to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of an interoperability framework where individuals are free to choose the components of their own ePortfolio system while being capable of interacting with a number of different institutions across time (diachronic interoperability) and space (synchronic interoperability). A MultiplePortfolio approach is a necessity to territorial approaches, i.e. to the implementation of systems working across multiple institutions within a city, a district, a region or a state.

EIfEL’s MultiplePortfolio environment will be dedicated to supporting the continuing professional development (CPD) of our members validated through peer review of their CPD ePortfolio. Reviewing other members CPD portfolio is part of members’ own professional development to demonstrate assessment skills and gain an opportunity to explore a range of different professional practices.

EIfEL will provide its members with an environment to publish their ePortfolio(s), select the reviewers for their CPD portfolio and publish the outcomes of the review process —a choice of ePortfolio platforms will be offered to those needing one. EIfEL staff will mainly support the quality improvement of the review process, and interoperability.

As MultiplePortfolio organisation EIfEL will go through the following stages:

  1. At the initial stage, each ePortfolio platform will be independent from each other, so the reviewers of peers’ ePortfolios will have to register on different systems. The focus on interoperability will be on the ability to publish ePortfolios using RSS/Atom/RDF feeds, based on multiple formats (LEAP2A, HR-XML, Europass, microformats, FOAF, etc.) and packaging ePortfolios (ZIP, IMeP, etc.) for archive and verification —quality assurance. We will also be working on the systematic exploitation of unique resource identifiers (URI) to competency definitions hosted in shared repositories of occupational standards, so definitions will be independent from ePortfolio platforms and could be used for many other purposes, e.g. to post a job, set a 360° assessment, etc.
  2. The second stage will be the implementation of single sign on mechanisms (SSO), so a member already identified by EIfEL platform will be able to use the same identifier to review a colleague’s CPD ePortfolio. This will require ePortfolio providers to support IAM standard frameworks.
  3. The third stage will be the implementation of circle of trusts and attribute sharing. At stage 2, the granularity of access is the whole ePortfolio, while at stage 3, elements of ePortfolios can be shared with other members of the EIfEL community —and others. This is very convenient when members work together on a project and want to share evidence from their respective ePortfolios. Sharing evidence is one of the means to increase the trustworthiness of individual ePortfolios.
  4. The fourth stage of interoperability will be the provision of ePortfolio readers independent from the idiosyncrasies of the different platforms, so a reviewer will be able to browse multiple ePortfolios created on multiple systems, while having the same navigational and informational interface. This will be particularly relevant in specific processes such as the accreditation of prior learning (APL) when an assessor needs to review evidence against a number of occupational standards of competence.
  5. The fifth stage of interoperability will be the ability to create a seamless space between the different components of one’s digital identity in an Internet where individuals exist as autonomous and empowered entities, lifelong and lifewide.

Of course, EIfEL will be working on these different stages in parallel, in cooperation with ePortfolio publishers, clients and users, exploiting the outcomes of existing and future projects (like TAS3). We will be looking at establishing a quality mark for the ePortfolio and ePortfolio-related solutions that have demonstrated their interoperability within EIfEL’s MultiplePortfolio environment.

The MultiplePortfolio initiative will be launched during Learning Forum London, the international ePortfolio conference, 22-24 June 2009. Demonstrations will be made during ePortfolio plugfest and participants will be invited to contribute their reflections to this ambitious and challenging project.

“The Internet of Subjects” Manifesto

EIfEL is currently working on the publication of “The Internet of Subjects” Manifesto. The objective is to bring together all the current efforts to make the Internet more ‘subject centric’, taking into account the human factor.

“The Internet of Subjects” Manifesto

The central role individuals now play in the Internet, calls for a radical rethinking of its organisation, in particular, the way the ever-increasing flow of personal data is being created, stored, connected, accessed, protected, tracked, exploited and managed. There is a need to create the foundations of an Internet where the architecture creates the conditions for the free association of self-conscious individuals, beyond the pre-defined boundaries of current information systems and social networks.

The foresight of an Internet of Subjects, rests on a vision of self-conscious subjects who are in full control of the whole of their personal data, from personal healthcare, education and employment records, to bank, sales and various tracking records generated in the cyberspace.

The Internet of Subjects aims at being a people enabler, creating the conditions developing one’s social and professional identity and contribute to the growth of social capital.

The Internet of Subjects aims also at being a business enabler, creating the conditions for for-profit as well as not-for-profit organisations, public and private agencies, to provide personalised services while using personal data ethically, as defined by the individuals.

To achieve this, a second order change is required. Thanks to research, innovation, improved quality of online services and the ever-decreasing costs of online storage, bandwidth and computing power, we have reached the tipping point where this second order change is now made possible


If you want to join the conversation and contribute to the Manifesto, please contact

The emergence of socially connected digital identities

While we might be decades away from the ‘Internet of objects’ promised by IPV6, the ‘Internet of People’ is already there and strong, demonstrating the power of technology to transform the way we think, learn, work, collaborate, do business, entertain and plan our future. People are now acting subjects of the Internet, transforming the Internet for people and organisations to the Internet of people. We are moving away from an Internet where individuals were treated as mere objects to an Internet where they are acting social subjects. The reification process of the human being by technology was not our fate.

The central role individuals now play in the Internet, calls for a radical rethinking of its organisation, in particular, the way the ever-increasing flow of personal data is being created, stored, connected, accessed, protected, exploited and managed.

The growing use of the Internet leading to the accumulation of personal digital records, their sheer number, scope and diversity leads to the emergence of what is now commonly referred to as ‘digital identity’ or ‘eSelf.’ Generated as the result of individual’s behaviour, the digital identity is becoming a key component for self-awareness and social interaction for the reflective learner, professional and citizen who are contributing to inventing the 21st century civilisation.

The socially connected digital identity will be the pivot of tomorrows Internet architecture. The Internet of free subjects, where we are in full control or our identity, is the promise of a technological revolution of great magnitude.