April 13, 2007 by Colin
I think everyone is aware of the financial implications of identity theft – and we likely have all suffered from it. But are the consequences greater when your identity is mimicked on sites like LinkedIn, MySpace or Facebook? The digital trail left by an identity thief can leave a lasting – and possibly damaging - history of misleading posts, poorly considered group memberships and intellectually inconsistent political positions.
The most elementary type of personality theft is the fake celebrity MySpace page – is that really Jessica Simpson who’s agreed to be my friend?
But, as we begin to consider a world where our digital breadcrumbs will help shape how people think of us – now and in the future – the prospect of personality theft becomes more threatening.
Social networking sites have advanced too far as useful tools to describe their users according to simple stereotypes: drunken frat boys; Jersey girls; desperate job seekers; young professionals; or techies.
Today, you’re as likely to find your grandma or your boss on a social networking site. That means your boss or your grandma could be browsing through your online profile, message board postings, and group messages.
If you wrote them, that is. What if someone assumes your online identity, lifting a photograph, getting enough personal details right to fool some of your friends, and then starts undermining your personality?
For Elatrash, though, there doesn’t seem to have been a financial impact. Instead, the Fake Elatrash simply muddied his online personality profile. He/she was joining groups with inappropriate political affiliations and making outrageous comments in others.
The impact of this type of identity theft, though, can be a long-lasting as when your bank details are stolen.
For a generation that lives its life online, your online record is your portable biography. If the information becomes corrupted, it not only casts doubt on the social network but on your real-life personality.
Is the key a system of third-party identity verification programs? More stringent verification procedures by social networking sites? Or is it up to people participating in networks to question new members or those seeking to “connect?”
I can see it now: in among the forms you’re handed on your first day as a freshman at university, there will be a list of personal question and answers that will be shared with your friends, so that later in life you will be able to verify their identity online.
“Colin McKay wants to connect”
“What was the name of your father’s first pet?”
[tags] Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, identity theft, personality theft [/tags]