Trust Anchors: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

The Fifteenth semi-annual Internet Identity Workshop in Mountain View just concluded, and both Connect.Me and Respect Network were there in force (15 of the 20 Respect Network Founding Partners attended).

We showed the new Connect.Me interface and social business card features and started working on the first Founding Partner integration efforts (stay tuned for more on that in November). But the most fascinating discussions revolved around the unique role of Trust Anchors.

Trust Anchors are the highest of the four trust levels defined by the Respect Trust Framework upon which Connect.Me is based. To become a Trust Anchor, three other Trust Anchors must give you a special Trust Anchor vouch. And that vouch has a very specific meaning: I know you personally well enough to recommend you as a Trust Anchor and believe you will abide by the Respect Principles.

As usage of the new Connect.Me ramps up, we have seen an influx of new Trust Anchors — so many so that we started sending out an email to them explaining the Respect Principles and asking them to confirm they understood the responsibility they were undertaking.

The result was a fantastic dialog among the new Trust Anchors and many of the existing Trust Anchors. First, almost to a person the new Trust Anchors are thrilled that Connect.Me and the Respect Network are serious about building an Internet scale trust network rooted on people. Second, they agree with us that the only way the quality of the network can be protected is with human oversight and moderation — just like on Wikipedia. And third, they are very enthusiastic about stepping up to the job.

But they also raised several fascinating questions. The one that triggered the most discussion was: how much does the trust in a Connect.Me Trust Anchor extend beyond the bounds of the Respect Network? In other words, if you are Trust Anchor on Connect.Me, does this mean you should be expected to behave honestly and ethically on other networks like Facebook, Twitter, Empire Avenue, TrustCloud, etc.? Or in other online activity? Or offline activity, e.g., your professional or personal life?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. But there is an answer that we’d like to propose:


In other words, it would be a tremendous result if the meaning of being a Trust Anchor for the Respect Network meant that there was an increased expectation that you could be trusted to act honestly and ethically in all walks of life.

Of course there is no way to enforce this, nor would we want to try. But we would like encourage all Trust Anchors to aspire to this ideal. And to help do that, over the past 18 months we have nominated a set of individuals whose words and deeds embody the spirit of the Respect Trust Framework. We call them the Distinguished Trust Anchors. We invite you to review this group of 41 individuals and help us nominate others who deserve this distinction.

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