Our founder Bastian Purrer spent several years working on political campaigns in Indonesia, the world’s 3rd largest democracy. There, he witnessed an election where partisanism blurred fact and fiction as both sides spread propaganda online using automated accounts. Subsequently, election results were contested and protests and riots ensued around the country. It should sound familiar.
Bastian realized that the current design of the online ecosystem was threatening democracies worldwide. The status quo will continue to inflict damage on democracies: more bot networks, more fake news, more polarization. Equally scary are current proposals to fix this problem that will send us careening towards 1984-esque authoritarianism.
So if the social internet has not fostered democratic communication, where lies the heart of the problem? Bot manipulation? Echo chambers? Toxic algorithms? Authoritarian snooping? Anonymity? Bad websites pretending to be good? Worse journalism?
Why has democracy worked so well in the real world but less so online?
The humanID answer comes from the fundamental rule of democracies: one human, one voice. humanID’s mission is to bring this principle to the online world. Democracy works in a way authoritarian alternatives never could. The solution to the 21st century internet’s problems is a centuries old theory of social organization.
humanID’s first goal was to bring the “one” in one human, one voice to the internet: there should only be one identity per human. This inspired us to build a single sign-on tool, addressing the beginning of internet identity. We first committed to making it restrictive of multiple accounts: one human, one humanID. The technical implementation of this theory is currently to require a phone number for sign-on; while not perfect, most people will stick to one phone number.
“One human, one voice” does not just mean that people’s identities are restricted. These voices must be free. For a democracy to work, its participants must be free to speak their mind without unfair consequences. This is freedom of speech. In creating a one identity per human system, humanID would jeopardize freedom of speech online, where everything is recorded, without the appropriate safeguard.
That safeguard is anonymity. humanID users are kept completely anonymous by humanID. While sites can — and will — ask for users’ identities, with humanID, it is the users who control this. This protects citizens from authoritarian governments who would use the internet to surveil its people. It also protects citizens from the doxxing and cancelling that have grown in prominence on the internet in recent years.
It does this by mimicking the real world online. Think about the different masks you wear in the real world. I’m the quiet brand marketer from 9-5 and someone completely different with my friends after. I’m a different man when my wife’s parents are around, or my kids, or my high school friends. The norms, rules and judgements change from place to place, and they shouldn’t overlap by default – I don’t get fired from my job for getting into an argument with my friend. We call this a right to privacy: to control who gets to know what about us.
humanID brings this same privacy to the internet by siloing your different online identities from each other: you carry a unique anonymous identifier on Reddit and Twitter and Youtube and the next Facebook, and it’s all separate from your human identity.
That’s how humanID ended up in its current form. It embraces the challenge of making democracy work on the internet. It takes the core parts of democracies, and extends them to an internet that up until now has been a wild west. We hope that the world this creates — both online and offline — is more democratic, more safe and more human.
In fixing these problems, humanID does more than put a bandaid on a single issue. Countless causes would benefit from a healthier internet.
With healthier political institutions, more responsible online behavior, and better ability to share trusted knowledge, we can better curb catastrophes such as COVID.
The single identity model stops private interests from generating traffic (and consequently credibility) around a given topic more than any one user. humanID recalibrates the internet to be compatible with democracy, falling back on humanity’s greatest tool for cooperation and self-governance.
Climate change is another. Or police reform, or economic policy, or fixing racism, sexism, mental health stigma, immigration, privacy laws, criminal justice reform, religious freedom, gun control.
Or demanding basic human rights, like clean air, fair work conditions, access to water, adequate standards of living, freedom to assemble, freedom of speech. Any issue where misinformation online promotes inaction or erroneous action stands to benefit from humanID.
By putting the right infrastructure in place for healthier democratic dialogue, humanID lays the foundation for a future of more nimble, intelligent democracies worldwide. humanID’s impact will be massive, as it will apply to a whole range of causes. Better conversions and better facts will help the fight against covid and climate change. Better debates will improve democratic dialogue and help us find solutions to complex challenges such as the future of free speech.
Decreased polarization will help marginalized and persecuted minorities as much as those struggling with mental health issues. The list could go on forever…
Q. Wait, so how does it protect my data?
A. You give us your phone number and we will send you a text message to verify it’s your phone. We send you a text and to verify it’s your phone. Then we turn your phone number into an irreversible codename, and erase your phone number from our servers. When you click “login with humanID,” sites only see you as this anonymous codename. To top it off, every site has a different version of this codename for you, so sites cannot connect your online identity between each other.
Q. Isn’t anonymity incompatible with accountability?
A. Our tech is the solution to that exact dilemma. Anonymity is bad because typically it guarantees no consequences – you can just rejoin under a different identity. With humanID, you can’t. Take Wikipedia as an example: because editors are held accountable for the edits they make, a large network of anonymous editors has managed to put together one of the internet’s most honest places for information.
Q. Why should people assume humanID is trustworthy?
A. We are a nonprofit. We do not have fiduciary duty. We are open source and transparent. Anyone can verify our code does what it says. We are supported by Harvard and Mozilla. We have 5 live integrations and counting.
Q. Does humanID really improve conversion rates? I haven’t detected that my users dislike Login with Facebook?
A. Yes it does! User research shows that the “Privacy Paradox” (users say they care, but don’t act like it) is a myth. One poll found that many people take a dim view of those “targeted” advertisements. Some 63 percent said they would like to see “less targeted advertising” in the future, while 9 percent said they wanted more. When asked to compare them with traditional forms of advertising, 41 percent said targeted ads are “worse” while 21 percent said they are “better.”
66% of people said data-privacy concerns impacted their trust of social media. Only 13% of respondents said “don’t care,” while 17% said that the impact of data privacy issues on their social media attitudes was “low.”
Blockchain expert, formerly Brave, ConsenSys, Harvard Business School MBA
Founder LYKE, CMO Homejoy, CMO Zalora, Harvard Business School MBA
Global Shaper at World Economic Forum, B.S. Candidate at NYU Stern
Our Fully Remote Team
Puvan J. Sulvanathan
Former Cybersecurity leader CEO & Founder Bluenumber, Former President United Nations Global Compact Network Malaysia
Why Work at humanID?
We are a nonprofit where volunteers take on real responsibilities and experience a true tech startup, with a strong focus on your individualized learning goals! Last year, volunteers from Harvard, MIT, Berkeley and Columbia and other schools were leading teams, initiatives, sales calls and much more. All roles will work directly with the founders, two Harvard Business School graduates. We are a team of 35, and will ensure that roles and tasks are adjusted to every team member’s career goals.
Real World Experience
You will be working in a real startup environment, and be able to build diverse connections across the tech and philanthropic world. The projects you work on will be directly based on your own learning goals!
Positive Work Environment
You will be part of a diverse and friendly team that values your individual ideas and contributions. We are here for our employees – our goal is to build each other up and make working at humanID the most positive experience possible!
Make a Difference
You will take on significant responsibility and make a direct positive impact in our world through exciting projects and team collaboration. We’ve built an awesome team as well as a meaningful product that can change the world!
Current Opening Postions
Graphic Designer / Video Editor
- Plan, analyze, and create visual solutions for a variety of different deliverables
- Revise previous work to create a unified aesthetic for our brand materials
- Developing infographics to be used on Twitter and LinkedIn
- Designing google slide and document templates
- Work with WordPress to improve our website
|View and Apply|
- Work with the leadership team to recruit for all teams, facilitate onboarding and offboarding operations
- Scan candidates and interview potential interns
- Organize and communicate learning and bonding opportunities across the whole team
- Gain experience in developing and facilitating key HR infrastructure
|View and Apply|
Senior Tech Mentor
Tech leads & Mentors will assist and guide the Developers with the following areas:
- Agile development
- Mobile App Development
- Database structure
- SDK integration
- Python (Django, flask)
|View and Apply|
Software Developers & Product Manager
- Work with experienced engineers building a sophisticated cyber security project
- Add value from day one while working and launch features within first two months
- Write code that will become part of the internet’s core infrastructure!
- Help develop requirements and design documents for our product
|View and Apply|
Outreach, Sales, or Business Team Member
- Outreach to a variety of individuals/organizations: ex) foundations, donors, possible clients, journalists (via messages, NO cold calls!)
- Writing grant applications
- Maintaining relationships with donors
- Build a CRM to track and streamline outreach
- Learn how to build valuable connections and relationships with promising leads
- Learn to analyze sales funnel data
|View and Apply|
Marketing Content Creator
- Research and learn about the privacy and online misinformation space
- Manage content creation on Social Media
- Create and distribute high quality content, including podcasts with experts in the field
- Learn how to build relationships online with key decision makers and become a thought leader in the industry
|View and Apply|
How to Apply
If you’re interested in working with us, please fill in this short form. You can also find us on Handshake!
Location and Details
Roles can be part-time or full-time, and will be unpaid. We are actively recruiting year round for applicants that can commit at least 15 hours a week for 3 months. We are looking for interns starting anytime, including spring semester and summer. We have been remote and globally set up even before the recent events, and welcome team members from anywhere in the world.
“Meaningful internship experience. Great opportunity to learn and apply what you learn. The organization really values its interns and the founders are always open to/implements new ideas and suggestions. A pleasure to work with interns from different schools/regions.”
Sophomore in Applied Mathematics, University of California Berkeley
“The founders and employees were very down to earth, and took out the time to talk to the interns even though were weren’t part of the internal team. Project developments were super exciting to work on, seeing humanID’s potential grow everyday is fascinating.”
Junior in Managerial Economics, University of California Davis
“I loved the ability to move around between different teams. The founders allowed us to be flexible and try new things. Seeing what everyone was working on during the weekly company wide meeting were also very informative. Overall it was a wonderful experience working with the founders and the other interns from around the world.”
Junior in Data Science & Economics, University of California Berkeley
“Working with everyone from the team was great and I feel like I gained a lot of meaningful startup experience working here! I got a lot of chances to work on projects directly affecting the company, and it was great to see the team, and the company mission evolve while I was there!”
Sophomore in Computer Science & Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Questions about humanID?
Send us a message!