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Mapping identity and privacy on Peak Paradox


Unpacking and explaining the Peak Paradox model is here, you will need this backgrounder to understand the model so that this article will make sense; it is a 5-minute read. A new way of seeing the same thing will mean we can act differently; this is the peak paradox model’s core tenet.




Over the past twenty years, I have spent a lot of time on privacy and identity. Without a doubt, everyone views what privacy and identity mean to themselves and the need for these features in society. In the privacy and identity space, you have to accept that the vast majority of opinions are formed from personal experience, a sample size of 1, and then extrapolated to all society - therefore it is very messy.

Mapping Identity

Functional or Foundational Identity

I am keeping it broad & straightforward. Functional identity is a passport, birth certification, diving licence, DNA, sovereign ID, company ID, and anything given to you by someone who has command and control. The foundational hard ID gives rise to many softer identities (identifications) built from having a foundation.

In the majority of societies, you need this type of identity for anything and everything. To buy food to survive at Peak Human, purchasing luxury items at Peak Individual, having agency in society at Peak Society, and working.

Emergent Identity

An identity that forms because you interact with (digital) systems. Your made-up email address enables someone to know where you live; trackers see what you buy, when you shop, who you shop for. Your preferences and actions identify you. This identity emerges, not because you have a trusted bank account to pay, but because you interact. Your functional ID allows and enables interactions. The more we interact in a complex digital world, the more emergent identities we have.

Emergent Identity emerges in the spaces between Peak Work and Peak Human. It is deeply yours as the data and services are for the person, but the data according to the terms is the companies. A majority of the debate is about ideals of who has rights to this data set. Emergent ID is a technology looking for a problem.

Oddly functional and emergent identity remove your ability to have privacy.

Mapping Privacy

It is evident from the placement that there are many interruption issues when we open up the word “privacy.” Privacy, like trust, risk and beauty, need verbs to bring context, as, without context, it all gets a bit fractious.

There is no privacy requirement when survival is the only purpose you have. Indeed there is a significant area under the map where privacy is not so relevant. In a way “At Peak Paradox”, the central place, privacy does not work for anyone as there are too many conflicts, and privacy lacks context, so we turn to that highly reliable idea of Trust.

My Privacy

My Privacy exists in the space between Peak Individual Purpose and everything else - the buffer that you hope will protect you. It is where the idea of privacy has the most value as a concept to the individual. But this idea of privacy is different from the concept of privacy at Peak Society. The law provides a framework for some, but not for everyone.

Commercial Privacy

The buffer zone to protect the business using legal construct frameworks to protect and defend themselves. Privacy at Peak Commerical Purpose has a strange relationship with us. We want it for ourselves to provide a layer of protection but not others who should be more open and honest about what they do. Privacy is both protection and a cost hurdle at the same time.

State Valued Privacy

There are lots of legal frameworks for the protection of state secrets and official documentation. State Privacy is further used as a privilege to prevent having to tell the public what is really happening until it is safe in 50 years. Nation-states have a wicked thorny problem with its relationship with privacy. Protection for one is hiding for someone else, the beauty of a paradox.

Privacy value by society

Peak Social Purpose avoids privacy by demanding equality and transparency, so there is no need for privacy. Therefore privacy cannot exist at this peak purpose; however, there is a place where society values privacy on the route. An interesting question is, does everyone need to know everything? When individuals hold different opinions, no privacy becomes a problem and has no value for society.


Take away Privacy and identity outs individual opinions and experiences like few other topics; religion, sex and politics aside. We have seen and know that there are all sides to each view, I hope that this mapping says that all ideas are valuable and that as an individual and team we need to have a holistic view and opinion on identity and privacy. I hope that each of us can identify that we hold conflict and compromises in the opinions we already own. Perhaps, if we want better privacy, we should carve out having to have an identity at these privacy points, so an individual can choose to be recognised or not?





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