Online Identity, privacy and security.

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Discuss the arguments for and against having more than one online identity’.

The term ‘Digital identity’ is the data that uniquely describes a person or a thing and contains information about the subject’s relationships’ (Windley P, 2005) . We may be compelled to create more than one online identity in order to differentiate and disaffiliate our personal and professional lives or even different aspects within these.  In the research paper ‘To be or not to be’ by the University of Salford, it highlights that the term ‘digital identity’ is becoming part of our lexicon and our lives (Costa and Torres, 2011).They suggest that these identities are fragmented as ‘every time we open an account for an online service, we are producing small fragments of our online identities’.

Digital Literacy, is becoming a necessity in this rapidly evolving technological era. There is an increasing awareness of the need to undertake new forms of learning, collaboration and dissemination of one’s work as part of one’s digital and professional footprint. Knowing how to effectively manage our public and private spaces online is a skill we can no longer disregard nor underestimate.

By possessing and maintaining online identities we can complement our formal professional development, enhance our networks and thus forge a digital identity as a new component of our professional profile. (Costa and Torres, 2011). For example an individual may decide to have two different Facebook accounts. They may communicate with work colleagues and clients on one which is occupied with more work-related content compared with their personal profile.

We can showcase our work and talents and connect with people of similar interests. I enjoy posting my artwork and poems online and discerned very quickly that there is plenty to be learnt from others. We can share new projects, tips, skills and honest critique.

‘There is no rose without a thorn’

online-privacy

Inevitably, there are cons associated with multiple online identities.

By encouraging people to adopt several online personas, it becomes more difficult to tell who is genuine or fake. This issue was documented in the film Catfish. For those who haven’t seen it, the trailer is below.

In his article ‘Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?’ Krotoski reviews Facebook’s belief that authenticity is linked to a person’s photo stream, which is why it paid $1bn for the photo-sharing service Instagram. (Krotoski, 2012). Essentially, we must use wisdom and prudence whilst engaging with strangers online.

‘Pictures speak a thousand words’

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Privacy is a detrimental issue that concerns many individuals and can determine how they use the web. Journalist Jemima Kiss acknowledges the ‘Big Brother problem’ in her article of how ‘we face surveillance in our online world, on our mobiles, on the street through CCTV and perhaps next in our own internet-connected smarthomes, plus social scrutiny of the parts of our lives we choose to display on social networks. (Kiss, 2014). Upon researching this issue I came across many ways in which people are tackling security issues online which include:

The Tor Project: Browser and software that obfuscate a user’s web traffic so anyone watching is unable to trace who a user is or where they are coming from, by bouncing an individual’s communications through at least three different places. People can still be identifiable on a service like Facebook or Google if they choose to log in, but Tor prevents these sites knowing what users were doing before, and where they go after they log out.

And on a lighter note…

3M Privacy Filter:

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The 3M Privacy Filter is for laptops, tablets and mobile phones. It is a print and outdoor advertising campaign developed at DDB Singapore, featuring specially designed collar, hoodie and hair. Maybe some of us will need to resort to methods like these soon, although it’s impracticability speaks for itself.

Krotoski argues that a social network’s success need not rely upon this direct link between online and offline identity. (Krotoski, 2012). As, in Japan, the three most popular social networks operate under pseudonyms at the discretion of the account holder. Therefore, anonymity does not really need to be a luxury for people today.

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I do believe that our online identities are fragmented but this is because as individuals our character and personalities are made up of many different traits, passions and interests. Surely, it would be unreasonable for us to compile this into one online persona. Instead, it is more feasible to create different identities whilst maintaining a respectable reputation online.

In this age of growing public alarm over personal privacy, data security and the lack of transparency in the gathering of data by public and private organizations we must not allow it to withhold us from networking and sharing online, but it is still important to keep our ears on the ground.

References

Costa, C., & Torres, R. 2011. To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity
in the networked society. Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, n.º extra,  April 27, 47-53. http://eft.educom.pt.

Kiss, K. 2014. Worried about your privacy? Wait until the drones start talking you. The Guardian. Sunday 9 February.

Krotoski, A. 2012. Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?. The Guardian, Thursday 19 April.

Windley, Phillip J. 2005. Digital Identity. O’Reilly Media, Inc. pp. 8–9

 

About

Economics and Finance student. University of Southampton. Autodidact. INTJ. Psychiatry devotee. To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me - Isaac Newton. Any Questions? Email: theoceanofknowledge@hotmail.com

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2 comments on “Online Identity, privacy and security.
  1. Hi Joy,

    I really enjoyed your blog! I actually tried to post a comment the other day and have only just realised it didn’t send but I thought I would re-comment anyway because you bring up some interesting points!

    You mentioned the “big brother” problem online, I like this description because it shows how vulnerable we are online just as we are offline due to CCTV, bills, documents, connections, etc. However the web is such a powerful platform and the flow of information can go in any direction – most of the time we won’t even realise where our details are going. Our information is constantly being pulled through channels by companies, brands and marketers to extract personal preferences, shopping habits, demographics and much more from us. Our information is the most valuable asset to online marketers. Do you think marketers have the right to access our information and use it to their own disposal?

    I like the marketing campaign for the 3M Privacy Filter – I think the use of images is a clever way to convey the problems we are facing online – and also the Tor Project, but do you not think many people would actually use these methods? Maintaining privacy on the web takes time and effort. I’m not certain many people would stay on top of this unless they were really keen on their privacy.

    Also you mentioned “it is more feasible to create different identities whilst maintaining a respectable reputation online”. Do you not think if someone really wants to find out information about you they will use all the channels they can. For example, many employers will look over your professional Linkedin accounts but will also scan your personal twitter accounts to find out a little more about you and to create one overall online image of you in their minds. I think all the platforms you use online will contribute to one online identity just as all your hobbies, activities, skills, expertise, connections, etc, contribute to your offline identity.

    Thanks,
    Laura

    Like

  2. joyisaac says:

    Hi Laura,

    You make such a great point and it’s something I have been thinking and learning about recently. Yes, I think it’s actually quite a serious issue how these companies manage our data. They are sold on and on and kept on databases. It has led me to believe that anonymity does not exist anymore and even though we may try to ‘clean’ up certain parts of our digital identities there is still the larger problem like you pointed out.

    The Big brother problem is one of concern to me also as sometimes it can be an invasion of our privacy. This is a great video I suggest, concerning surveillance on Social Media in particular.

    I’m quite artistic so I love images, couldn’t help myself 🙂 But, thats another critical point you made. The 3M Privacy Filter is obviously unrealistic, but actually Tor is used by regular people to prevent the marketing and other privacy issues. Whistleblowers, the Military, Law enforcement, Business executives etc. All these people have different reasons as to why they use it.

    I personally downloaded Tor, and like you pointed out it can take effort to sustain it’s use, but it’s great when buying online; prices are cheaper as cookies aren’t used.

    As for your final point, I am sure some recruiters may do that, but then I believe it’s left to us to decide how open we leave our personal accounts.

    Great comment. Thank you

    Like

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