BYOI (Bring Your Own Identity): My Legal Name is not my ID but I’ve just lost it

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BYOI is a series I’ve decided to create to “talk” about #identitymanagement so it is about #security, #governance, #management and many other aspects of the #IAM realm.

My  legal name is not my ID but seems I’ve just lost it and now I wonder if those ID’s I’m using still reflecting who am I and are still valid.

Legal name is the name that an individual is given at birth and/or recognized by a government or other legal entity, or which appears on a birth certificate (see birth name), marriage certificate (in jurisdictions that permit or require a name change to be recorded at marriage), or other government issued document (e.g., court order) on which a legal name change is evidenced and recorded.

wikipedia on “Legal Name”

What is your Legal Name? In Italy when I was born in 1972 it was used to assign to children a First Name followed by a Second and (eventually) a Third Name and finally the Surname. Traditionally this “form” was chosen this way:

  • First Name = Chosen by parents
  • Second and Third Name = Grandparents names

In my case my parents went for the “masculine version” of my grandmothers names so at birth I was:

Alessandro, Francesco, Emilio Festa

Please take note of the commas between the First,second and third name. The regulation at that time states that my Legal Name was composed by everything before the first comma plus the surname consequently my Legal Name is:

Alessandro Festa

My Identity is not my name but my name is part of my Identity? Many think that a name (Legal Name) do not have nothing with the physical Identity (pID) one have/develop but I am not agree.

You start to refer to yourself by your First Name or the Name your relative calls you when you are still a child and this is a first way to develop an identity:

I am because my name is

I am not a sociologist and so please I am sure that my statement can lead to (almost) infinite discussion to this, this is just my opinion and feel free to comment it. Back to the post, as said to me when I was a child I start the fact that my parents call me “Alessandro”  helped me to develop the bones of my pID in a way similar to this:

I am the one called this name and if my relatives call out that word it is referred to me only.

this, for a child, means that his name is:

  • unique: the combination parents voice + pronounced name could be only referred to a single “entity”
  • certified: it is the way I am called and I trust my relatives enough to assume there is no other name (or additional one)

What happen in the years is that at this very first skeleton of a complete identity the external influences and the discovery process make the name less relevant. In few years you discover that your name:

  • is not unique: others share with you the same name and so even your relatives may, from time to time, refer to someone’s using “your” name
  • is not certified: the Legal Name  could be different from the way your relatives refer to you

What you develop anyway is a more complex Identity made of many pieces like:

  • Sexual orientation
  • Religious/Political views
  • Music Influences
  • Work/Social influences

the sum of them make your pID  that makes us  unique.

Digital identity is a psychological identity that prevails in the domains of cyberspace, and is defined as a set of data that uniquely describes a person or a thing (sometimes referred to as subject or entity) and contains information about the subject’s relationships to other entities. The social identity that an internet user establishes through digital identities in cyberspace is referred to as online identity.

Wikipedia on “Digital Identity”

So what make a digital identity (dID) different from a pID? I am sure many of the readers can affirm that there are many differences and exhibit many research to demonstrate that dID and pID are not the same thing.

An Identity is the sum of:

  • the way everybody refer to it
  • the uniqueness of it
  • the sum of the external/internal influences that helped to mold the identity

whether it is physical or digital an Identity still continue to be a sum of information’s that make it: recognizable and unique.

I’m avoiding to write about authentication systems and methods of identification because are not related to this post but again, with the obvious differences , if we refer in a simplistic way to the identification of an Identity we may find a sort of correspondence, in example:

If I knock at the door of my parents house and they want to know who’s on the other side they simply go for a simple question like “who’s it?” and I’ll pronounce my name.

The name  alone is not enough but the combination of: voice, timber, pronounce will convince my parents that I am who I said I am.

An Identity is not secure or not but a simple set of “properties” to identify one entity.

What we just seen is then that a  Legal Name is for sure part of an Identity and can have the same importance/user of a  username in a dID.

The day I started to lose my name

So my pID was quietly growing and being build by myself when around the age of 18th I was called to attend the mandatory “visita dei tre giorni”. Beside the, well know label in Italy (the 3 days visit), this was nothing more than a  visit to be “certified” as “able to attend to the mandatory military service”.

As said nothing different from what an Italian male had to do around 1990 but what happened to me was that the day I was declared “able to join the military forces” my  Legal Name was printed out as:

Alessandro France Festa

Please note the “France” part. What was happen was that some of the information systems of my city were upgraded to a new system (AS400) and consequently all the records were imported (manually).

  • First issue: they lost the first comma
  • Second issue: the IS accept up to 16 characters

My pId  was  compromised? If one of the parameter is the uniqueness  so the answer I should say yes but since the the “issue” seemed limited to that special case it didn’t appear to have an impact to my life.

To make a long story short in the following years I requested and obtained:

  • a driving license: Alessandro Francesco Festa
  • a tax code: Alessandro Festa
  • an health card: Alessandro France
  • various (updated) id cards: Alessandro France Festa
  • credit and ATM cards: Alessandro Francesco Festa
  • a passport: Alessandro Festa

You’ll probably wonder why I didn’t to ask my name and fix the issue, well because the reply of my demographic office was always:

“no worries we are going to fix it automatically it’s just a question of time”

What this story till now demonstrated to me that some of the “so-called” secure systems fail at the basics since do not double check the name of the requester. I have a passport that says “Alessandro” only an IDentity card that says “Alessandro Francesco” (in the mean time the  fixed the problem as you may see).

My Identity is back

So at the age of 40 my Identities converged in a  limbo where I was able to demonstrate who I am almost always. The  workaround was to accept the idea of my “wrong” name and when requested provide it to the requesting issuer of the service. So my dID like credit cards, ATM cards, electronic passports where created consequently and I accepted the idea to modify my signature in a way that reflect my “wrong” name.

So I had lost my name but reconciled my dID with my new pID.

An Identity is nothing more then the set of properties some unchangeable other variable that make unique the Identity itself.

Nothing is ever like appear (especially in Italy)

I went through a divorce and did it all the papers needed by national regulation and at the very end it was requested by the judge to sign the final paper. The judge asked me to sing as First,Second and third Name plus Surname because that was what was written on the birth certificate and so I did.

What would happen if all of sudden a scrupulous employer of the demographic institute would notice the “issue” with your name and decide to call you to inform you that this situation is not  acceptable and should be fixed “ as soon as possible” ?

the option were:

  • Alessandro Francesco Festa : change of all documents to reconcile them with the new “entity”
  • Alessandro Francesco Emilio Festa :change of all documents to reconcile them with the new “entity”
  • Alessandro Festa:change of all documents to reconcile them with the new “entity”

yes whether you look at it I was just informed that my  Legal Name was lost and gone and….and wait let’s pretend for a moment  that I have to demonstrate that my  pID is the same of my dID for, let say, request a credit card to my bank because the other one I have is at EOL .Let’s pretend that the procedure is that I send a copy of my ID card to the bank? I do not have a name, my ID card is wrong because of the “fixed issue above” and consequently I am not able to identify my pID. Even worse my dID used, for example for online purchasing, is technically  valid but  compromised from the ability to reconcile that dID  to my pID.

I am still living in the limbo waiting to produce all my new documents and cards and, hopefully, reconcile for the last name my pID with  myself  and my dID’s  so if it happen to you to “meet” me in the cyberspace these days I cannot confirm it’s me and neither you because nobody of us know who I am at the moment.

This  story is absolutely true and happened to me recently.