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Who owns your identity online?

Posted by: Nasreen

Nasreen

In any normal circumstance, you are required to own an Identification card once you reach the age of sixteen, and thereafter wherever you go, you have to present it when entering social places such as clubs or bars. It’s also essential to have it in order to vote in an election or make payments at the bank.

We’re all pretty much accustomed to presenting our official identification when needed, and this is so routine in the physical world, but is still such a hazy area on the Internet.

In the old days of web publishing, almost every site required its users to register in order to access certain functionalities, like commenting or receiving updates. However, each login was only useful to its corresponding website and users had to remember a number of usernames and passwords just to read up on the morning news. This was more of an inconvenience than a user friendly tool.

But with the rise of social networks and platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and GooglePlus, companies began to fill the identity-management gap by giving users different IDs that worked across media websites. For instance, you can now register or login to news sites or any other worthy websites using your Facebook or Twitter ID.

When you register on any media site with your Facebook or Twitter account, you’re usually asked to give the site access to your profile data like your name and email address, and the site then publishes information to your news feeds. These sites intend to post these feeds so that your friends will see them and visit the site, and we assume they do this with the best of intentions.

However, we have to trust that they will only publish content that you’ve expressed interest in, and then follow up with you via email if necessary. This can be quite annoying and end up being spam, and media companies may take advantage of this, while no one is checking. Therefore there is no one monitoring your online identity or your online activity, so users and media companies are free to do whatever they like.

In this virtual world it’s much harder to control media companies that connect with users. Its not as easy as asking for identification and then letting the person enter, there’s a great burden on these companies to fulfil and not violate the trust of their users, and to behave appropriately and not give out any information freely or post inappropriate links. If these media companies violate our trust, we’l just revoke our access and probably won’t return to that site, but there is no solid grounds or means of policing these companies or to regulate access to our shared identity.

We need to find a simple method to prevent media companies from abusing the level of access to our identities and giving users greater control.

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