Criminals Wear a Mask for a Reason

What’s in a fake name?  Do you ever occlude your identity online and have you ever generated a random identity to fool the cyberworld?  If yes, why?  If not, why not?

Last week, the Norton Cybercrime Report released information that the use of fake names on the internet is rising — and that’s a terrible thing for democracy and transparency in content creation:

The anonymous online world we live in enables many of us to engage in activities that would be clearly illegal if done in the physical world.

Nearly half of respondents to the Norton Cybercrime Report: The Human Impact felt it “legal” to download a single music track, album or movie without paying (17%, 14%, and 15% respectively.)

So while we’re besieged by online cybercrime, we often engage in forms of online theft, misrepresentation, defacement and simple lying without recognizing our own hypocrisy. We are complicated beasts, aren’t we?

Anne Collier, of NetFamilyNews and co-chair of the Congressional committee, “Online Safety & Technology Working Group” said, “Sometimes people create alternate identities or screen names online if they want to say something anonymously.

Research also shows that users will fictionalize their social network profiles to fend off people who aren’t their friends offline.”

Why would someone ever want to say something anonymously?  We must own our words and ward our behavior.  Anonymity excites hatred and breeds revulsion.

Criminals wear masks and gloves because there is security in anonymity when their antisocial instinct to act, but not get caught, arises unbound by responsibility and morality.

How can we best determine our security online while also guaranteeing we know the people we are meeting are actually who they claim to be without question?

6 comments

  • No use in trying to hide identity online. Your identity can always be found out if someone wants to find it — as in the Slide employee who loled on your blog entry months ago.

  • I have to reply to this one !

    I believe a while back we discussed this on Urban Semiotic. As a result of that post we used real photographs instead of icons and our real names when posting and commenting on this network. Until then I had used an alias from the alternative community that I belong to where I am well known by that name. However I took the decision that I should not enforce those alternative interests onto the readers of this blog and contributed and commented here in my real name and used my real photograph.

    The *opportunity cost* of that was considerable as that was a decision that came back to haunt me and ultimately contributed to costing me a lot of money in lost damages in a civil law suit against one of our less reputable tabloid newspapers. The whole situation caused by press intrusion resulted in a considerable loss of business and a lot of associated family issues and a period of extreme stress and anxiety which my Doctor referred to as a nervous breakdown.

    However – they have done it to me once – they cannot do it to me again – but I can after that experience understand why some people use aliases and false identities. It is a way of protecting ones family from the more free thinking and liberal and in this case adult activities that some of your relations relations MIGHT have issues with.

    There are of course those who use aliases and false identities for far more sinister purposes – grooming of children, having affairs and for criminal purposes.

    One wonderful thing which came out of all this was the support of my local village – who in spite of what the press said backed me to the hilt – to the extent that a piece was published in the local parish magazine telling the National Press they had no business coming here and telling the residents who was an was not a good neighbor and that they should go back to London and stay there – which so far they have done.

    • Nicola —

      I am disappointed you are trying to blame my blog, and your open commenting in that blog, with a loss of income. Own your decisions. Do not blame others for the choices you make.

      Anyone could’ve done an internet WHOIS search on “http://msdemmie.com” and come away with your real name and address as I just did again now — and that has nothing to do with your presence on any of my blogs:

      Registrant:
      P.Burrage & N.J.Brown
      Strawberry Water
      Welcombe
      Bideford, Devon EX39 6HL
      UK

      Domain Name: MSDEMMIE.COM

      Administrative Contact:
      Brown, Nicola msdemmie@gmail.com
      The Edge
      Strawberry Water
      Welcombe
      Bideford, Devon EX39 6HL
      NO CITY, NO STATE 99999
      UK
      01288 331403 fax: 01288 331403

      Technical Contact:
      Brown, Nicola demeter@DIRCON.CO.UK
      Strawberry Water
      Welcombe
      Bideford, Devon EX39 6HL
      UK
      01288 331403 fax: 01288 331403

      Record expires on 12-Oct-2011.
      Record created on 12-Oct-1999.
      Database last updated on 27-Sep-2010 09:01:23 EDT.

      Domain servers in listed order:

      NS1.PHP5HOSTING.NET
      NS2.PHP5HOSTING.NET

      If you want to fake your identity online, you need to make sure you don’t have your real name ANYWHERE on the internet — and you didn’t protect your real name as far back as October 12, 1999 — so my blogs had nothing to do with the problems you had and to suggest otherwise is to be both untruthful and patently unfair.

  • I am not blaming you or your blog – I made the choice.

    “However I took the decision that I should not enforce those alternative interests onto the readers of this blog and contributed and commented here in my real name and used my real photograph.”

    If I gave that impression I apologize to you and your readers for doing so.

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