2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight: Who Are You? From Meat to Electrons & Back Again

Written by Megan Simpson | January 28, 2014

Michael Schwartz discusses identity and privacy at SXSW 2014

This March, the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin will present more than 800 sessions including many in the Social and Privacy track. In today’s Session Spotlight, we talk to Gluu CEO and Founder, Michael Schwartz, about his SXSW solo presentation titled, “Who are you? Who Are You? From Meat to Electrons & Back Again”, which is part of that Social and Privacy grouping. To connect with Schwartz, follow him on Twitter @gluufederation, where he tweets about identity, authentication, and security.

SXSW: What will your SXSW Interactive session address?
Schwartz: It’s an age old problem: how do you prove your identity? It’s the reason governments started issuing ID cards. Since the advent of the Internet, identification has gotten even harder. To a website, you are a stream of electrons. Before you can transact business, the website needs to associate that stream of electrons with a person – a piece of meat. Eighty percent of the Internet's security breaches have been traced back to bad passwords, but until recently, anything better than passwords meant expensive hardware tokens, or complex digital certificates. Luckily, authentication is experiencing a renaissance. New technologies have made it easier, more secure, and even less expensive to authenticate a person. Authentication is the front door to your network service. What device does the person have in their hands? Is your website or mobile app for customers or employees? This talk will help you understand your options, and how to use authentication for competitive advantage.

SXSW: What kinds of people should attend your conversation?
Schwartz: The topic is general interest. People use authentication every day. Developers need to think about it design their web or mobile app. Anyone interested in security would also find this interesting, as the weakest point of security has been passwords.

SXSW: Have you spoken about this topic previously?
Schwartz: I haven't given this specific talk, but I've given a few similar. Actually, this specific topic – the incredible, weird and sometimes creepy array of modern authentication mechanisms – is something I have to avoid getting sidetracked on in my other talks, so I decided it was worthy of its own talk. People really love this topic. With the iPhone introducing biometric (fingerprint) authentication, and literally a new patent being filed every week, its an incredibly diverse topic that is general interest today. Access to network services is now part of our society, and digital identification is the front door.

SXSW: What do you hope to gain from speaking at SXSW?
Schwartz: I'd love to help raise awareness that we are facing new challenges for digital identity. This challenge is both a threat and an opportunity. Normally, you can't change user behavior. But with more than 80% of digital breaches originating from passwords, I think users are ready to change. SXSW is a great place to network with people outside of our normal path, to spread the word a little farther.

SXSW: What can you tell us about yourself that’s not in your official bio?
Schwartz: I have tied the world record for pigeon juggling.

SXSW: Another fun one – not necessarily related to your topic at SXSW, what is your favorite current TV show?
Schwartz: Breaking Bad. It’s the dark side of entrepreneurship.

SXSW: And finally, what’s your favorite gadget?
Schwartz: My coffee cup.

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Session Spotlight. Click here for the complete list of programming for March in Austin. Register now to attend “Who Are You? From Meat to Electrons & Back Again” and other programming at SXSW Interactive 2014.