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Entries in Internet (1)


It’s Time to Make Internet Identification a Reality

The first ever rental property I purchased was bought in 2007…right before the US real estate bust.  The six family building had everything my new business partners had to have…a nice entrance, separate utilities, and the ability to make into condos.  We purchased the property to the delight of the former owner, who at the closing proceeded to tell us how the neighborhood was in decline as his attorney pushed him out the door.  Six years later and one real estate bust behind us, and we are now positioned to sell the now six unit condominium. Suffice to say this property isn’t the envy of real estate mogul Donald Trump.

This morning, our attorney sent over eight documents critical to the closing.  I’d love to tell you the HUD statement was in the package, it wasn’t.  The documents include multiple deeds, resignation from the (holding) company, etc.

What struck me as odd was how these documents had to be handled:

  • I printed the package of eight documents
  • I went to the bank, where notary services are offered
  • Having greeted the assistant branch manager/notary, who acknowledged me by name, I then had to prove who I was by showing her my Driver’s License
  • The document titles being notarized were captured in a large paper ledger held in a large bound book
  • As signing of the documents took place, the Notary then signed her name, embossed the paper, and stamped her identification onto the form.
  • I then took the package of eight documents, and overnighted them from the post office to the other owners so they could follow a similar process.

Why can’t this be done electronically?  Why did I have to take an hour and incur substantive out of pocket costs to affect this?

I can go on Amazon.com and order virtually anything and have it shipped anywhere more readily.  All I have with Amazon is an ID and password.  Since I adore one click ordering, they have my credit card on file.  Is this secure?  No.  Is this convenient?  Yes.

IDs and Passwords trace their roots to MIT in the 60s and making sure the right people get charged for computer time.  Passwords are often shared, causing a major ancillary issue.

Multifactor authentication is a step up.  The question is how hard is it to find out someone’s mother’s maiden name?  There’s an argument suggesting to never answer those questions truthfully!

Tokens or fobs (from companies like RSA) is a way to increase security.  Pricey to attain and administer, these systems are another step up.  One bank uses them for their cash management system, causing folks like me to have multiple fobs (inconvenient.)  Fingerprints, retinal scans, etc are biometric methods to address.

Some of the best and brightest are addressing this through industry groups like the Global Identity Foundation or Fast IDentity Online (FIDO).  With these issues solved, perhaps doing standard real estate transactions can be accomplished online.

What else could we then do?  My small town has a government structure called town meeting, where everyone in the town goes to the high school to vote on every line item.  These meetings can go days…and are often poorly attended.  This is an area where automation could help.

The same holds true for other transactions.  Going to the “Registry of Motor Vehicles” is another crown pleaser.  My laptop has a camera…why not let me take the picture on it?

As technologists, the developed world is ripe for doing more transactions securely online.

Let’s get it done.