Topic 2: Online Identities

We are becoming increasingly willing to divulge large amounts of information about ourselves over the Internet…why? If you received a phone call from a stranger would you tell them where you lived or your date of birth? Probably not. However, over the Internet we seem to be willing to share exactly that kind of information.

online identity

The development of technology and social media is changing the way we socialise and express ourselves (Chatti et al., 2007). The Internet has become a part of our everyday lives. It’s where we socialise, learn, work, have fun and shop. However, during each of these activities, we are encouraged to divulge our personal data. As people hand over vast quantities of personal data, it makes it easier to determine and target customers, which as a marketer is a dream come true. However, this also opens us up to increased risk of security breaches.  People should not be worried about turning off their cookies they should be worried about where and what data they are giving away.  If you’d rather not have personalised adds that’s fine but don’t think it’s helping to keep you protected.

With every online identity that you create, you give away slightly more information: your name, address, data of birth, pets’ names, partner’s identity.  If you use personalised passwords, this information leaves you susceptible to being hacked and, worse still, if you use the same password for multiple accounts they may all be taken over in minutes. In 2012, Diane O’Meara was shocked to see her face in the papers with the title “the hoax girlfriend” after a scammer used her Facebook photos to create a false identity. Have you checked your privacy settings recently? Even with restrictive settings, it can still be easy to access photos of you through your wider circle of friends. This you have little control over.

11514588-how-can-prevent-online-identity-theft

Despite the risks of identity theft and the media hype about government intrusion, 955 million people worldwide actively use Facebook (KeyNote 2013). LinkedIn claims over 277 million members (LinkedIn 2014) and Twitter 500 million (Telegraph 2013). In a professional context, it has become vital to have an Internet presence. In the business world, the importance of becoming a personal brand is becoming recognised and advice about how to project a desired brand identity through different social media is popping up all over the web (e.g., Safko and Brake, 2009).  These platforms on which we can create and promote our identity, can be advantageous in increasing employability and gaining wider audience. We can fine tune our professional profiles (LinkedIn), share our ideas through blogs, micro-posts (Twitter), and online discussions, all as a means of promoting our personal brand. To add to this, we are able to use search engine optimisation techniques to encourage further traffic to our professional profiles.

I am a keen blogger, and, as an undergraduate looking to advance in my professional career, online visibility is essential.  If I Google myself, the first two pages are full of my online activity and photos. A prospective employer could easily find me, review my CV and ascertain whether my personality type is suited to their organisation.

google search

Sites you can find me on:

I use all of these sites as a way to promote my personal brand. That said, I do not include my address or telephone number on any of these sites, nor do I use the same password on multiple sites or publicise being on holiday in case my address was known. I know what content is suitable for my closed Facebook account and what content is suitable for my public twitter. All these aspects are important when creating multiple online identities, especially if your aim is to create an effective personal brand.

Despite the need for self publicity, anonymity still has its place on the Internet. As Jarvis (2013) points out, it protects the speech of Chinese dissidents, Iranian protestors, and corporate whistleblowers. It allows WikiLeaks to expose secrets. It helps people share, for example, medical data and benefit others without having to reveal their identities. It lets people play with new identities on World of Warcraft or Second Life, without revealing their hobbies to others.  But anonymity does not just let the vulnerable hide, it can also be a means by which to attack them. When hidden behind a mask people feel they cannot be identified and therefore held accountable. This has resulted in many incidents of cyber bulling spanning from the circulation of rumours to malicious and prejudicial content.

In order to make the web a safer place, it must be made more difficult to create false accounts on mainstream social media platforms. The rise of identity-centric social networks like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, make it increasingly more difficult to live an anonymous life on the Internet. These platforms are inherently social and rely on users to establish a network of friends and acquaintances. These sites effectively create an online version of your real life that relies on your true identity in order to function. As more sites become an extension of our lives the web will become safer, but in an online world that never forgets our actions, we are governed by the fact we can never revoke the content we post. In order to be safe and positively present our self brand, there needs to be increased training and awareness on how to positively create and use online identities.

 

  References: 

Chatti, M. A., Agustiawan, M. R., Jarke, M., & Specht, M. (2010). Toward a Personal Learning Environment Framework. International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, 1(4), 66–85.

Safko, Lon and David K. Brake (2009), The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools, and Strategies for Business Success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Schwabel, Dan (2009), Me 2.0: A Powerful Way to Achieve Brand Success. New York: Kaplan Publishers.

Key Note (2014). Market Report- Social Media. (R. Hucker, Ed.) (6th ed.).

Jarvis, Jeff (2013), Public Parts -http://buzzmachine.com/publicparts/

LinkedIn (2013, Press Release, http://press.linkedin.com/about

Telegraph (2013), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/9945505/Twitter-in-numbers.html

 

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Topic 2: Online Identities

  1. Hi Jazz,

    Great topic and quite a good post. It was an interesting read and I especially like how it is straight to the topic. Another good thing is mentioning googling oneself. It’s not crucial, but you could have added that searches are different for different computers depending on the area and previous searches. I was also wondering, why have you hidden the links to some of your accounts where you’ve posted the sites you are registered on?

    Vlad

    • Hey,
      Thanks for your feedback. It is a good point, searches are indeed different on different computers. I did delete my history, but I know my IP can still affect the search results, you will have to let me know how popular I am on your google search. As for the problem with the hidden links, I am having issues changing the colour of my hyperlinks. At the moment you can see that they are black, any advice on how to correct this is most welcome.

      Regards,

      Jazz

  2. Hey Jazmin,
    I really like your blog. It’s really well written and was a good and very interesting read

    I agree with your concluding statement that we will need to learn ways in which to create our identities online, do you think we need to be taught ways in which to keep our online identities safe as well?
    I certainly agree with the fact that it should be made harder to create false accounts, but at what cost would we then have to give up personal information to ensure false accounts are not created? Some sites abroad have considered using individuals social security numbers, in the UK would we have to give up our NI numbers to have a profile on a social media platform? What other ways could we ensure that false accounts aren’t created?

    I’ve only experienced anonymity online negatively, I’ve seen cyber bullying occur first hand and this is probably my reasoning behind seeing other online identities negatively. Anonymity leaves the individual thinking they can not be traced and therefore unaccountable for their actions as you mentioned. They can hide behind the mask of the internet, so although anonymity could be positive for some users, i find it lays a path for more negative activity.

    The internet now is such a vast entity! Information can be gained about you much easier than before. Just out of interest, have or would you change your online ‘identity’ and portray yourself differently if you knew people (potential employers, parents, teachers, lectures etc) were watching you and knew of the information they were gathering about you, or would you leave it be?

    Emma

    • Hey Emma,

      Thanks for your kind comments. With regards to your question about keeping our online Identities safe, I feel that at University we should be taught how to effectively manage our online presence. In such a competitive job market we are all having to present our selves as a brand. Our online activity can greatly affect our employment opportunities, so I believe as part of preparing us for the job market in this internet driven world, training should be given.

      Hacking and data theft has been plentiful in the Media in the past few years. Due to this, I personally would not feel comfortable handing over my SSN or NI Number. I think a better way to stop fake online identities being created would be to make it a necessity for their accounts to be approved by people who know them. For instance they would have to have five friends fill out a form on acceptance which states how they know the person, that they approve of the information they have given, and declare that they are happy to support this person entrance to the site.

      Not on one of my online identities (social media pages) would you find any content that potential employers would strongly frown upon. There is however a Myspace page out there from my childhood which I can’t gaining access to or delete. But it is not that much of a worry to me. I am careful with the content I post, I can admit I was not in my teens, but now with a greater understanding of the impact the smallest things can have, I have found myself allot more controlled (not that I have anything to hide).

      Thanks again for your feedback,

      Regards,

      Jazz

  3. You raise some very valid points about people using details that they have found online (including photos) fraudulently. The case of Diana O’Meara case that you mention reminds me of a deceased older friend who spent her retired life rooting out false profiles on Facebook and bringing those individuals to the attention of law enforcement in that particular area of the world. But when we look at cases like this we must also take time to consider the victims of fake profiles, some of whom may have a personal interest in the persona who has befriended them. The questions that we must ask ourselves are “at some point have they revealed more about themselves than they should online”, and “what can be done in the future to protect those individuals from such invasion. On a grander scale, there is very little that can be done other than education. The question I want to ask you is, in your opinion enough being done to educate and protect vulnerable individuals of the dangers?

    • Hey Alex,

      Thanks for your feedback. What a great question, the answer has to be no, I do not feel enough is being done to educate and protect vulnerable people. It’s crazy, there is so much media attention surrounding, cyber bulling, identity theft, yet little is being done to prevent it. I have seen so many talk shows, people talking about awareness programmes but clearly it isn’t having much affect. The death of Hannah Smith last year after months of cyber bulling was widely publicised.

      Although police can and should do more, the notion of more laws to govern the internet is neither practical nor desirable. Equally, while social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are often criticised for their slow response, and might still do more to ban those who violate basic decency, they alone cannot stamp out online abuse. What I feel is needed is education. As time goes on our dependency on the internet for all areas of our lives is growing, and this is all starting at a younger age. As such training on how to keep ourselves safe online should be taught from an early age and follow us through to adulthood as the nature of our internet usage and problems change.

      I did find this site online that gives information on how to stay safe, but unless you were actively seeking it out how would you know about it.
      https://www.getsafeonline.org/

      Regards,

      Jazz

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