On this year's Digital ID World in San Francisco, Doc Searls held a keynote on Vendor Relationship Management (VRM), a concept he has been contributing to as a Harvard (Berkman Center) fellow. According to Doc, VRM is the inverse of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and provides methods and tools for individuals to deal with customers.

VRM being still quite early in it's evolution, definately is extremely interesting, as it is one of the first initiatives to look into what can be done on top of User Centric Identity, besides decentralized authentication and some kind of Web-SSO. VRM puts customers into the lead position, and thus improves the relationship between demand and supply.

In the VRM mailing list, which is very interesting to listen to, there has been some discussion around the question, who actually owns identity related information. I posted the following contribution:

Information cannot be owned

I would like to point to the fact that information cannot be owned, because it is not kind of an object which may be attributed to a subject by law (which itself is information as well). There is a very good publication about the ownership of information from Jean Nicolas Druey: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/home/uploads/339/Druey.pdf .

So, talking about the persistence and flow of identity information between parties and through market places, we should not try to think, that we can own that information. If I understand the VRM discussion and the concept of user centric identity right, it is about creating a more balanced position between parties taking part in whatever market place, where some kind of “rules layer” on top of the information layer gives me the power to influence it's flow. I'm not the owner of my doctor's diagnosis, even if it concerns me. But I may have some rights influencing the distribution of this diagnosis, because it affects me. We need a home for these rights, instead of trying to own information.

VRM, how I understand it, is about creating kind of a rules metasystem above or beyond the walled gardens we currently have.