Cool Solutions

i don’t own my identity and you don’t own yours


March 15, 2006 10:35 am





hi. my name is volker scheuber. i work on the identity manager and designer projects. i was born in germany, grew up, got married and two children in switzerland and live now with my family in utah, usa.

i have spent my first five years with novell in novell consulting, switzerland. now that i’m part of engineering, i’m putting all my energy into providing the tools our customers, partners and consultants need to successfully deploy identity management projects. what i have learned during the delivery of about twenty five idm projects in emea will keep me busy for the next little while trying to merge it into our tools around identity management.

with my relocation to the states my understanding of identity got re-defined. this is why and how:

that's me

i learned that i have to follow these steps to establish an identity in my new host country:

  • get a visa
  • get a checking account (difficult without a social but not impossible)
  • get a social (social security number)
  • establish multiple lines of credit
  • get cars. the country is so huge that one car is not enough. get at least two.
  • get utah driver licenses
  • find and buy a house

when i visited the u.s. last summer, i checked out different banks to open a bank account. this turned out to be a difficult thing without a us passport, no us id of any kind and no social. i finally succeeded, though, finding a bank that does these things.

lesson learned: as long as i do not have any kind of u.s. id, i will be a suspect, no matter how good my record is back in switzerland or anywhere else. there is no such thing like global identity federation. good or bad? i haven’t decided on that, yet.

at the us embassy in bern, switzerland, my family and i received our visas for the united states. we thought: well, that’s it, we’re in. we didn’t realize it all had only just begun:

during our immigration when we arrived at our port of entry, a mistake happened and my wife got my L-1 stamp on her I-94 form where as i got her L-2 stamp on mine. this basically gave her work permit and revoked mine.

lesson learned: my identity is nothing i own. others own it for me. if they screw up, i’m screwed up. my biometrics don’t matter, my record doesn’t matter. only the record that others have of me matters and determines their actions regarding me.

so i applied for a social security number. but i was told: no. you gotta fix your I-94 first. showing them my passport with the L-1 visa in it didn’t do any good. so i had to take my whole family and start a marathon from office to office to find out how to fix our identity, ahm… I-94 forms. we finally got this done and i was able to apply for a social security number.

next step was to buy cars. we wanted to get rid of the rental car asap. so we checked out several car dealers. several deals were almost closed. but always they asked the question: may we have your social? no social no deal. actually they didn’t care for my social but for my non-existing credit record tied to my non-existing social.

at the same time we started to look for houses and actually found one and got it under contract. now we had 4 weeks to receive our social before the contract expired and we would loose the house.

lesson learned: having an identity is not enough. you need the right type of identity. the environment you are in defines what the right type of identity is. the environment you are in also sets the rules how to obtain it.

now that we knew we are going to get a social for me (not for the rest of my family, though) the next problem arose. the bank wanted to find out if i was a reliable person for the house loan. so we arranged several phone calls with swiss credit institutes and banks who would give them information on my credit record in switzerland. the bank did this effort for the house loan but for car loans they said: we don’t do that. you have to build up your credit, first.

lesson learned: good records tied to the wrong identity don’t help. good records need to be tied to the right identity. records cannot be transferred from one to another identity.

my social security number arrived 3 days before the contract for the house expired. our credit record was established and our money from switzerland arrived on the last day and we were able to close on the house.

because we were able to establish our credit record for the house, the car dealers all the sudden were willing to sell us cars. having a social also allowed me to get cell phones, a regular phone and cable tv.

lesson learned: i am a very lucky and happy person having all the identities i need to take care of my family in a foreign country. i realize that not everybody is blessed like this.

with our identity management product here at novell we cannot change reality for people but we can make sure realty doesn’t get manipulated and identities are given the proper respect they deserve.

my team is working hard on making managing identities easier.

visit us at brainshare in salt lake city next week:

  • all day long from monday to friday in the solutions lab
  • on tuesday and wednesday in the tut160 session (presentation and demo of bleeding edge functionality in designer for identity manager)
  • on thursday in the bof161 session (round table discussion)
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  1. Hello Volker, quite interesting,
    I do suggest to use biometrics, HEARTBEAT-ID,and THINSIA,
    please have a look at,
    have a great day,
    Roland Sassen

  2. […] Volker Scheuber writes about his adventure coming to the US and getting proper ID as part of the Novell Cool Blogs. He’s here to continue his work on identity management software. […]

  3. hello volker,

    i hopes you enjoys yours lives into utha.
    Even if the examination your identity in the USA longer lasts. In ours stylesheet you are well-known.

    regard Christian Nebiker