Have you ever really thought about Identity? In a traditional sense you probably think of your identity as your name or social security number. It may also be the features of your face, physical appearance or makeup. It could be a disguise or how you dress or make yourself up as well. In a broader sense however, it can be your reputation, standing in your community, or the goal of a public relations campaign.
Your digital identity shares some of these features, but also includes some more. For example, to protect a pet’s identity, you install a microchip. The pets identity – beyond your family’s relationship with it – can then be tracked, especially if the pet is stolen or lost. The pet identity is built-in for identification by family and friends and also a wider community to protect it from theft or loss. If the pet wanders away from home, the path of its journey is unknown because it can’t be traced or recollected. But if you travel and move about, your location and participation in various events and activities can be traced and recollected because you leave a record when you purchase gas, a hotel room, food, etc. And the digital signature of your cellphone (assuming you carry one) and/or any other mobile or fixed computing devices that you touch, like an ATM, POS terminal (at a commercial site) is recorded. Law enforcement uses this trail to gather evidence for investigating crimes and other questionable events. like the pet, it can be located. And when you do that transaction there is often a video camera recording you standing there.
Now that the commercial world has a better idea about the digital signatures that you leave – mostly unwittingly – they have created new marketing, merchandising, and commercial tactics that depend upon and capitalize on the trails that we all leave throughout the cyber universe. Do we need to cover our tracks? Is our privacy being compromised when we are digitally followed? Does it matter? Do you care? Or are these things just another consequence of a connected society, the revolutionary changes that are occuring, and the protections that it may be fostering.
Current law and rules regarding the protection of your privacy and identity are still trying to catch-up with the methods and tactics of gathering data and information about you. PCI-DSS (The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/security_standards/ offers some protections among participating brick and mortar merchants. Internet commerce is less compliant these days. However, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/ offers privacy when utilizing public and private health care systems in the US.
In an environment where the federal government and states are struggling with how, where, and when to impose taxation on Internet commerce, the protection of your identity and privacy is spotty at best, if only because it isn’t imprtant enough, yet, to regulators. Standards and practices are still developing and will take years to mature. And changes in technology occur so rapidly that actual identity and privacy conditions are unpredictable. This is not to say that applications and services providers aren’t trying.
Suggestions for now:
-Be aware of when and where you connect.
-Require disclosure of terms and conditions for the sharing of your name, “handle”, and situations in which your app or social media account can be shared with other services or individuals.
-Be cautious anout what you post, especially pictures of others who may not approve of the posting.
-And be sure to record your activities for future recollection. That way you will know who to contact if a problem arises in the future.