The birth of cyberspace provided ‘a new space for the re-construction of the self as a new persona or even personas’ through a wide range of services and platforms (Costa & Torres, 2011). The ability to establish multiple online identities can appeal to users who want to remain anonymous (using pseudonyms) or, for example, want to separate their personal social life from their online professional sphere. However, our disparate online activity leaves a fragmentary but traceable digital footprint.
This animation presents one of the consequences:
The more partial identities you have, the more complete and valuable profile businesses can build of you. So, in actual fact, there is a loss of anonymity. I believe that there is little harm in targeted advertising as it improves consumer experience; it is the lack of control or knowledge users possess over their own personal data that is the central concern.
Multiple online identities can cause further insecurity when they are not adequately protected. If account passwords are predictable (as most unfortunately are), or the same password is used for multiple accounts, individuals are exposed to identity theft (Internet society).
From a professional perspective, keeping multiple identities is counterproductive for networking and can appear untrustworthy to potential employers, in a world where, increasingly, our online identity can have implications on our real life (jetsetshow, 2010).
Please watch 5:44 to 6:37.
On the other side of the coin, Alex Schoof argues for the dangers of a ‘heavyweight’ single identity, which, although convenient for quick authentication on new websites, means users can no longer separate or control different facets of their online lives.
An artificial intelligence article questions whether technology is in fact taking our identity away entirely; a terrifying thought! It discusses new developments in facial recognition technology and the possibilities this holds for optimal advertising campaigns, suggesting the next intrusive stage on from the one presented in the animation. Google is interested in the technology for intelligent image searching; compiling a life history of public images of an individual (Dormehl, 2014). This constitutes data mining and could truly expose users’ online identities in a manner that they might consider a breach of privacy.
It seems the more digitally advanced and interconnected we become, whether that be through multiple identities or an overarching singular profile, the more vulnerable our online security and privacy. Luckily for us, the future is looking more positive as the relevant jurisdiction and technological infrastructure play catch up (Internet Society).
Word count: 408
Costa, C., & Torres, R. (2011). To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society. Educação, Formação e Tecnologias, 47-53.
Dormehl, L. (2014). https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/04/facial-recognition-technology-identity-tesco-ethical-issues The Observer
jetsetshow. (2010). 7 Steps To Building Your Online Identity Youtube.
Krotoski, A. (2012). Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important? The Guardian.
Schoof, A. (2015). Identity Risk: The Danger of a Single Identity | Alex Schoof | TEDxHerndon Youtube.
Images & Videos
Featured image: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/may/04/facial-recognition-technology-identity-tesco-ethical-issuescredit credit to The Guardian.
Animation: self-produced using PowToon.