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Microsoft Identity workshop

A rough and tumble affair

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I've just been at a Microsoft Identity Workshop - Exploring Digital Identity. It was a good rough and tumble session, with a lot of the (pretty well-informed) attendees asking some searching questions.

As a result, I remain unconvinced by Microsoft's Digital Rights Management - for business documents, at least (I'm also not exactly sure why it was lumped in with Identity).

It doesn't do all that you might think it does, it's easily bypassed, and it's a sledgehammer to crack a nut, for what it does do, it seems to me. Why not just tag documents with a "public" "Internal Use" and "Confidential" label, and use security awareness training to encourage appropriate good practice?

It also seems to come configured for ease of use rather than the enforcement of rights management, and I suspect it may be a bit of a management nightmare to configure so it reliably implements your business' own digital rights policies - if these differ from what Microsoft considers the norm and you aren't a Microsoft-only shop.

There also seems to be a strong possibility of lock-in to the Microsoft platform in practice - you probably can integrate with other environments, but who has the time?

Infocard, on the other hand, seems to be one of those Microsoft technologies that might have been thought through and got right.

However, I'll be particularly interested to see the results of Microsoft's study on the legal implications of its approach to Digital Identity, when I get it - no matter how good the technology, success or failure will come from whether or not it enables better commercial contracts - and anybody's opinion of what makes sense as an Identity is worthless if the courts take a different view.

Finally, it was rather disturbing to find that at least one attendee at this workshop appeared to want us all to shut up, so he could see the demo of the technology in peace and make notes. But, we can get descriptions of technology from the web, or press releases. Surely, what journalists are supposed to do is ask questions, to try to determine whether the technology is fit for some purpose or whether it is just some marketroid's dream?

Partly the workshop organisers' problem, I guess, since different attendees clearly had conflicting needs. However, it was billed as a workshop, not a product demonstration; I do hope the UK press isn't becoming like (parts of) the US press, which dutifully listens to what it is told, takes notes, and claps when it is all over. I remember an occasion when a US journalist once apparently took it upon himself to apologise for the "disrespectful" questions asked by a UK journalist, at a US press conference.

The duty of the press, in the UK at least, is to give the vendors a hard time, on behalf of its readership. And I suppose the duty of its readership is to write in and complain when it thinks it isn't doing this.

It's just a PITA all round when Microsoft gets something more or less right for once; but it would be a really neat trick to get everything wrong all the time and still manage to be one of the biggest vendors of software on the planet. ®

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