Sunday, 15 June 2008

Identity trashing

There is a lot of concern about identity theft. The BBC often reports on the sort of defensive procedures you need to adopt and credit cards providers offer to protect you in event of a loss.

There is far less concern about identity trashing on the internet, but a thoughtful piece in the weekend Financial Times by Christopher Caldwell sets out the risks of having your reputation damaged online.

First the internet is a very unforgiving medium. You get trashed on it once and it remains forever, regardless of what you do in the meantime. (Not completely new, of course, there is the story of the nobleman who broke wind when bowing to Elizabeth 1st and when he returned to court twenty years later the Queen said, " You are welcome ,my lord, we have quite forgot about the fart.")

Secondly a search will be able to find malevolent material and this could affect personal, business and employment relationships.

Thirdly there is far more protection for intellectual property than for privacy, especially in the USA, where it is hard to get redress.

Fourthly, the barrier to managing huge amounts of data on people has now been overcome by computing power and therefore people could be open to greater personal surveillance than ever before.

Caldwell points out the importance of the low evaluation by the public of these risks, "Privacy is the realm in which personal convictions ripen into public engagements - no privacy, no democracy. To judge from the amount of information shared online people are not yet terribly worried about privacy. That is another way of saying that they are not terribly worried about liberty."

David Davis who resigned his Parliamentary seat this week over the obtrusiveness of the State in survelliance matters and its assault on human rights in the name of security is tilting at an important windmill.

No comments: