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My multiples

By Dave Birch posted Nov 4 2010 at 3:47 PM
[Dave Birch] I watched a strange TV show on a plane back from the US. I was about a woman with "Multiple Personality Disorder" (remember that book Sybil -- not the one by Benjamin Disraeli -- from years ago). I make no comment about whether the disorder is real or not (the TV show wasn't that interesting) but there's no doubt in my mind that when it comes to the virtual world, multiple personalities are not only real, but desirable.

Here's a good reason for not having your Facebook account in your real name (as I don't):

Five interviewees who traveled to Iran in recent months said they were forced by police at Tehran's airport to log in to their Facebook accounts. Several reported having their passports confiscated because of harsh criticism they had posted online about the way the Iranian government had handled its controversial elections earlier this year.

[From Emergent Chaos: Fingerprinted and Facebooked at the Border]

I've already created a new Facebook identity and posted a paen to Iran's spiritual leaders just in case I am ever detained by revolutionary guards and forced to log in. But will this be enough? Remember what happened to film maker David Bond when he made his documentary about trying to disappear? The private detectives that he had hired to try and find him simply went through Facebook:

Pretending to be Bond, they set up a new Facebook page, using the alias Phileas Fogg, and sent messages to his friends, suggesting that this was a way to keep in touch now that he was on the run. Two thirds of them got in contact.

[From Can you disappear in surveillance Britain? - Times Online]

So even if you are careful with your Facebook personalities, your friends will blab. As far as I can tell, there's no technological way around this: so long as someone knows which pseudonym is connect to which real identity, the link may be uncovered. Probably the best we can do is to make sure that the link is held by someone who will demand a warrant before opening the box.

I have to say that Facebook is leading to some pretty strange behaviour here and there, and not least amongst regulators.

A new law in Germany could soon make it illegal for employers to check out prospective job candidates on Facebook and other non-career focused social networks, according to local newspaper reports. Bizarrely, however, it will still be legal to “google” applicants,

[From Germany to outlaw employers checking out job candidates on Facebook, but Googling is OK]

Oh dear, our wacky German cousins. This is a perfect example of an utterly stupid law, invented by people who haven't the slightest idea. So employers won't be able to take into account stuff that you have posted about yourself on Facebook, but they will be able to look at what other people might have posted about you on Google? This is all happening because social media are new, and no-one has any kind of strategy related to them: the government don't know what they want any more than companies or, indeed, individuals do.

I was at a meeting the other day when the topic of Facebook came up in connection with terrorism! (The context was "oh no, terrorists could use Facebook to co-ordinate their dastardly plots!"). This is an absurd perspective: surely any sane national intelligence agency would want all of its terrorist subversive elements to be on Facebook: once they are on Facebook, you only need one of them to crack and then you have the whole network. And even if you don't know who any of them actually are, knowing that they are planning an outrage is surely more helpful than not knowing they are planning an outrage. My motto, as always, is that in cyberspace no-one knows you're a dog, but no-one knows you're from the FBI either.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


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