Topic 2 – Reflection

This week’s topic of online identity provided controversy, intangible ideas and a host of new terms. I felt slightly daunted at the prospect of structuring my post around a topic which, even after substantial reading, still mystified me. I tried to sustain a coherent discussion by focusing on identities through the lens of online security and privacy, exploring how much control a user has over their identity.

I enjoyed experimenting with creating and embedding videos into WordPress; this medium really helped to clarify aspects of online identity, whether through hearing a TedTalk expert explain it out, or by making a Powtoon to communicate the ideas in a more engaging and accessible way.

I was reassured by the variety displayed across other bloggers’ posts, as this demonstrated the breadth of the topic; everyone had a slightly different understanding of what constituted an online identity and therefore multiple identities. Naturally, this sparked several mini debates on branching issues such as authenticity versus anonymity, data mining and digital wellbeing.

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Figure 1: Development of my Topic 2 learning

Rebecca took the ideas in my post about identity in relation to personal online security and applied them to concerns for national security. We discussed the troubling contemporary issue of how we may have to jeopardise the privacy of our social media accounts and confidential online identities, or risk terrorist activity being conducted more freely.

In her impressive post, Patricia explained that her online social presence was split into multiple identities. I challenged her to consider that she may have jumped to conclusions as it appeared a singular profile was pervading across her chosen platforms. The subsequent discussion aided both our understandings and emphasised the fact that online identities can be interpreted in different ways.

This week, it was reading and commenting on other blogs which really helped me to think through the topic and become much clearer on what constitutes an online identity, a topic much more complex than it first appears.

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Figure 2: Pros of different states of online identity

Word count: 319

Comments

Rebecca’s post

Patricia’s post

Figure references

Figure 1: Self-produced using Piktochart

Figure 2: Self-produced using Microsoft PowerPoint

Online identities: are you in control?

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

References

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

Internet Society. Online Identity Overview. Protecting your privacy. Protecting your identity.

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.