While slavery was abolished many years ago, today we have a different kind of ownership of humans, that being your identity. Social media and software and hardware companies (and other companies we haven’t even heard of) have had a field day building profiles on every person on the Internet, not simply their likes and dislikes to target advertising as is often the excuse. Their collections are identities, yours and mine and they are exploiting them for profit by selling them to anyone with a few cents to spend.
Going back a few years and we could be forgiven for getting excited about all the new social media stuff, but times have changed and our digital identities are now commodities and we should be aware of that and take the relevant precautions – not that one can beat the spyware entirely.
And as we know, the criminal element is doing the same thing, although it’s easier for them to steal your digital identity from one of these hoarders which suffer minimal, if any consequences for not protecting your data – despite the privacy regulations that get so much attention.
A digital identity, however, is a good thing when it is handled properly by responsible and ethical companies. As can be seen in the Access & Identity Management Handbook 2022, there are companies that collect detailed information on us, but use it in a secure manner to assist both organisations and individuals in avoiding fraud and other identity-related crimes. This is a growing and maturing market which will hopefully have a positive impact in the long run.
Protecting your digital identity starts with each individual. Each of us needs to set boundaries in terms of the information we throw out into the world (even if the site promises the usual claptrap about ‘we respect your privacy’. Make use of GDPR or PoPIA and ask what companies are going to do with data you provide. And I could go on.
A good starting point for your identity self-defence is www.eff.org, it is primarily US focused, but there is a lot of information to assist one in defending your digital identity.
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