How Do You Define Your Online Identity?
That was the question asked by the UK government's Foresight science department in their latest report, published today.
The report, called Future Identities, believes that hyper-connectivity is a major driver behind our changing sense of identity. With over seven billion devices connected to the internet, and some 60% of us members of a social network, the web offers us unlimited capabilities to document any aspect of our lives.
This data is increasingly being mined for insights, primarily by private companies such as Facebook, who look to that data to target advertising at us as we browse their websites. Therefore our online identities are now a valuable commodity.
This sense of hyper-connectivity has implications across society. Migrant communities can for instance maintain closer connections with family and friends from around the world. People now increasingly switch between online and offline that any boundaries between the two are increasingly dissolving.
The web allows us to find others like themselves and discuss ideas as well as promulgate misinformation, which can quickly go viral. Therefore whilst this hyper-connectivity can be a source for good, it can also make society more volatile.
The report also covers the issue of identity theft and cybercrime, with areas such as spear phishing on the rise. The suggestion is that organizations can use the wealth of data we submit online to build insight into our normal behaviour, and thus use this norm to identify deviations and thus security risks.