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Knowing our customers vs. verifying their identity

We can know our customers on many different levels, for many different purposes. For a cafe owner or server, the most important way to 'know a customer' may be to recognize the face of a regular, whether or not a name or address is ever acquired. For a bank, identity and background have to be checked before an account can be opened. 

Facebook and Twitter know many intimate details of our lives, yet they make no effort to verify identity, leading to some really serious problems. I agree with Andrew (see below). We need to figure this out, and I suggest we designate a third party... maybe CustomerCommons.org or digi.me?

NY Times: To Purge Some of Social Media’s Ugliness, an Unlikely Lesson From Wall St., 2019-Apr-10 by Andrew Ross Sorkin

Although it won’t address all of Big Tech’s problems, a simple rule that bolsters the banking system could do a lot to clean up some of the uglier aspects of social media that Mr. Zuckerberg felt compelled to apologize for. 

The concept is “know your customer” — or KYC, as it’s called on Wall Street — and it’s straightforward: Given concerns about privacy, security and fraud when it comes to money, no bank is allowed to take on a new customer without verifying its existence and vetting its background.... 

When I broached the idea of applying a “know your customer” principle to their business, several senior executives at social media companies recoiled at the prospect, questioning how they would pull off such a huge feat, especially in emerging markets where many people lack credit cards, and even fixed street addresses can be hard to come by.

Then there are the legitimate complaints about Facebook and its ilk already knowing too much about users. Who would want them to know even more? And what would the companies do to protect personal information better than they have in the past? After all, not long ago, Facebook disclosed that tens of millions of user passwords had not been stored securely.

But the stakes may be too high not to consider some kind of heightened verification process.... 

There is a precedent for adapting such a regimen for social media: NextDoor, a social network that helps people communicate in their local communities, won’t let new users sign up unless their addresses can be verified.... 

The company doesn’t disclose user numbers, only that it is in more than 200,000 neighborhoods. Reports suggest it has tens of millions of users, a far cry from the billions using more popular social networks. If introducing such a system at that scale is too daunting, testing it in the United States and Canada first might be one way to start.

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