Having more than one online identity: More authentic or more vulnerable?

When searching for sources under the broad topic of ‘digital identity’, I came across an interesting metaphor – it was suggested that our digital identity is the permanent collection of data about us that is available online, that is, a digital ‘tattoo’ (Binary Tattoo). And it is striking to note that almost all activities that are based on using web tools and applications are actually ways of creating our digital identities, even when they are not intended (Torres and Costa, 2011).

Krotoski (2012) suggested that, with Facebook and Google encouraging the pursuit of authenticity by tying different accounts, photo streams and participation in any activity to a person’s real name, our daily online activity is becoming more and more non-anonymous, that is, whatever we do, including comments we make, any online-shopping records or even google search records, are becoming traceable. Hence, I do agree with the ‘tattoo’ metaphor to a large extent.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-8-43-35-pm

So, there are a few pros about tying everything into a big, one and only digital identity under your name. Firstly, a single identity makes everything easier and more convenient (e.g.: Apple Pay)  – users are familiar with logging into other services using Facebook or Google IDs, forming a single public identity that’s an aggregated version of their offline past (Krotoski, 2012).

Secondly, people are provided with an assurance of security and credibility. With a rapid growth of the digital identity infrastructure over the last decade, more and more services are available online. In fact, business activities like online transactions, online banking and even ATM are enabled by the existence of digital identity, as banks no longer need a human in the loop to identify customers’ identity (Windley, 2005). Thus, with the increase in money being involved in online activities, online security, credibility and integrity have become increasingly important.

While having one account and one password for all services seems super handy, we can argue that despite being more connected than ever before we are equally much more vulnerable (Torres and Costa, 2011). As suggested in The Value of Our Digital Identity (2012), personal data has become a new form of currency. It is estimated that applying personal data can deliver a €330billion annual economic benefit for organisations in Europe by 2020!

Consequently, it is important not to always put all your eggs in one basket – Below is a video that talks about Online identity theft:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOxxTaBP3xs

On the other hand, Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor Project emphasised the need for anonymity – he argued that losing anonymity, that is having only one online identity which remains when you are offline, prevents people from being creative and explorative. He also highlighted the importance of the ability to forget and start over. It is believed that as Facebook and Google shape online experience based on one’s past activities, people may face a lack of choice in their online experiences and remain stuck in their old life (Krotoski, 2012)

To sum up, there are significant pros and cons for each side of the argument. Hence, it is suggested that the need for education in privacy management and digital identity management over the web should be emphasised in future education systems.

References:

Binary Tattoo (2015) How are you defining YOUR digital identity? Retrieved from: http://www.binarytattoo.com/about-us/ (Accessed on 30/10/16.)

Krotoski, A. (2012) Online Identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?, The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/apr/19/online-identity-authenticity-anonymity (Accessed on 29/10/16.)

Liberty Global, Inc. (2012) The Value of Our Digital Identity. The Boston Consulting Group, Inc. Retrieved from: https://www.libertyglobal.com/PDF/public-policy/The-Value-of-Our-Digital-Identity.pdf (Accessed on 30/10/16.)

Nordic Edge Movies (2011, Oct 11) Online Identity Theft – Stolen Password – Social Engineering‬. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOxxTaBP3xs (Accessed on 30/10/16.)

Torres, R. and Costa, C. (2011) To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity, in the networked society, Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, n.º extra, 47-53. Retrieved from: http://eft.educom.pt/index.php/eft/article/view/216/126 (Accessed on 29/10/16.)

Windley, P. J. (2005) Digital Identity: Unmasking Identity Management Architecture (IMA). USA: O’Reilly Media, Inc. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=o8mHSbDHgPsC&oi=fnd&pg=PT5&dq=digital+identity+dictionary&ots=URmuofyE1t&sig=PGG-KNqiFgJEzePypLqlY2O11lo#v=onepage&q=digital%20identity%20dictionary&f=false (Accessed on 30/10/16.)

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9 thoughts on “Having more than one online identity: More authentic or more vulnerable?

  1. Hi,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog post! it is very well written and particularly easy to follow, and what drew me to your post in particular was the ‘tattoo’ metaphor which challenged me to think more deeply about how every online action I make shapes and impacts my identity permanently.

    The way in which you structured both sides of your arguments categorising them into ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ is also useful in making following your train of thought much easier and your uses of the image as well as the video are both effective in putting across your points. Your reference to online identity theft as a ‘con’ of online identity stood out to me as it is something I referred to in my own post.

    In all it was a very good post that didn’t fail to keep me engaged throughout, your tip to educate more individuals on the matter was great, however other than academic reference, I failed to see your own personal engagement with the topic and where your own point of view stands in regards to your position in the argument; are you against or in favour of multiple online identities?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You provided a well researched, informative post, outlining both sides of the argument.
    Comparing digital identity to tattoos was particularly interesting. I agree with this, as often you need to sign up for access to websites, and through doing so unknowingly leave a trace of your digital identity.

    Your linking of the topic of identity to security when undertaking online transactions was interesting, and an issue I had not considered previously.
    Would you conclude that developments in digital identity technology benefits or hinders security for individuals when undertaking online transactions?

    While I agree that it increases convenience, I consider security can be an issue when undertaking online transactions, as online identity is harder to determine than physical identity – someone could have my card details and order something without anyone knowing it isn’t me. Therefore I believe further developments need to be made to improve methods of determining identity authenticity with money transfers.

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  3. Hi there,

    I, like the other students, enjoyed reading your blog post. I think that the array of academic work used helps you consolidate your ideas and therefore means the presentation of the ‘pros and cons’ is clear and insightful. The fact that you present a solution to the issues raised is surprising considering the non committal nature of the blog in personal preference. Despite this, you raise issues which I didnt read in other peoples posts. Mainly the idea surrounding security if all your passwords and logins are the same.

    Do you think that users are able to have one identity across multiple social media platforms and just different password to protect against the vulnerable aspect? I understand that this wouldnt be ideal as some services require timely changes of passwords, which could lead to users forgetting which password they have to which account.

    It would be nice to hear your thoughts on this couple with a personal preference to whether having multiple identities is a ‘pro or a con’

    Alex

    Like

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