I recently attended an Elluminate session with Di Benard, hosted by Edublogs about protecting your Digital Identity. I logged into the room, not knowing exactly what to expect. I came out with my head spinning (in a good way!)
As a member of the first generation to use computers in the classroom, I have been going online and using computers for almost 2 decades. While I am very careful about identity theft when it comes to my credit cards, I never thought about protecting my online identity. From time to time I will Google myself to see what I find. I know that one bad thing or misnomer can lead to troubles down the road, but I never worried about anyone 'stealing' my online identity--mostly because I didn't think I had one.
While I understand the importance of my digital legacy to protect my reputation and my name, I never thought of protecting my actual online identity. Di described your online identity as
your online 'brand.' As a new blogger and a frequent user of Twitter, I have begun to understand this distinction. My Twitter name is how people recognize me. More people know me by my Twitter name than my real name on the Internet. In fact, when I set up my Diigo account, I used my Twitter name so that others could recognize that it was me.
In addition, my blog's name is another 'brand.' People who don't know me know the name of my blog. These are my 2 most prominent online brands, but were I to spend more time on Second Life, that name would also become part of my brand. At this point, if I saw someone using my online name, it would not only bother me, but I would begin to be worried about people confusing me with the other person. I'm not famous enough to worry about people stealing my username to further their own agenda, but it happens on a daily basis. Just think of all of the faux MySpace & Facebook profiles for celebrities out there!
Di offered a few sites where you can check to see if your username is being used so you can determine whether it is identity fraud or to at least be aware of how and where your username is being use.
KnowEm.com - check whether your username is being used on a variety of sites
NameCheck.com - same as
KnowEm-a few different sites represented. They started following me on Twitter after the session!
Please, please, please check out Di's recent updated post on EduBlogs Live. It includes a run down of the Elluminate session as well as definitions and explanations of terms. It was so informative and effective that right after leaving the session I went in and closed my Friendster account that has sat unused for months.
One solution Di offered was using OpenID to log into sites that accept them. Through OpenID you only need one username account that is used across many
different sites. If you have ever joined a NING, you'll find that you only have to create an account once. After that, you just log in with your NING account and your info and username are automatically entered. Google also uses an OpenID for its different apps. My Google profile is the same on Blogger & YouTube as a result. This avoids the need to memorize a million passwords and it eliminates the chance that someone could hack into one of your many accounts without you noticing.
As I build my online identity and 'brand' myself, I find that I have become attached to my brand. It has become a part of me. While my off and online personalities do not differ, I do have "Digital Schizophrenia"- dual personalities that vie for attention. This phenomenon makes meeting online friends in person that much more exciting!