Topic 2

Topic 2: Online Identity

Taken from

Over the last decade or two, the internet has quickly become the place for people to socialise, increasing the need to create a permanent identity online. On social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, you can choose who to ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ but how do you know these profiles represent who they are meant to?

Here is an example of using one account to create another.   Screenshot taken from

Many companies and websites are expanding on the idea of having one all inclusive identity, where it is becoming more prevalent to find an account sign up similar to that on the right.

There are advantages to having one online identity, people on the internet are confident that you are who you claim to be. This is especially useful if you are well known or part of multiple communities, where checking credibility benefits those linked to your accounts and the information you provide is reliable to those who want to use it (Costa and Torres, 2011). Additionally, with an ever increasing amount of platforms to join and create profiles for, it becomes easier to access all of them.

For those who are not very security conscious this can result in a vulnerability whereby someone would be able to hack into one account and have access to the rest, as well as your personal information and possibly more. So what if you have many accounts with differing pseudonyms?

This type of approach would allow users to be able to freely express themselves in many differing communities or even open up the discussion on controversial topics, since they get to hide their ‘true identity’. In the 1948 presidential election, a silent majority felt pressured to speak out in polls, so didn’t.

Taken from Forbes Magazine

However, the liberty to be able to speak freely would equally bring out the worst in people, through trolling and even spreading hate.

Above is a brief description of the extremes on the scale of online identities, anonymity and identity. The key word here being ‘scale’, I don’t believe that either extreme would be most beneficial, people will want a mixture of both. Having said that, I lean more towards having multiple identities since it will allow an environment of free discussion as well as keeping online identities separate, mainly for personal and professional uses, and will make it harder to gather information about you (Johnson, G., 2010).

Here is a link to a 30 minute conference on this discussion of anonymity vs. identity.


Costa, C. and Torres, R. “To be or not to be, the importance of Digital Identity in the networked society” (2011) (Accessed on 20 February 2017)

Cunningham, L. “Harry Truman and the biggest polling error in presidential election history” (2016) (Accessed on 23 February 2017)

Johnson, G. “The Impact of Anonymity on Internet Safety, Security, and Content Integrity” (2010) (Accessed on 23 February 2017)


Cassely, M. “Multiple Personalities And Social Media: The Many Faces of Me” (2011), Forbes Article (Accessed on 23 February 2017)

Krotoski, A. “Online identity: is authenticity or anonymity more important?” (2012), Guardian Article (Accessed on 20 February)

Word Count: 400


7 thoughts on “Topic 2: Online Identity”

  1. Hi Oliver,

    While reading up on the Super Identity Project I came across a Guardian article regarding online security. The article suggests that there is a threat from hackers to firms storing data. If the security risk is on the end of the firms holding the data, then having multiple identities may not help with privacy of key accounts. An example of this is the case of Yahoo in 2013.

    If the firms storing of data is the problem, then having multiple accounts isn’t the solution. A hacker may seek to take control of your email account, as with it they can access many other account details. Your argument against a single identity from a security perspective appears to be that it makes it easier to hack individual accounts. However, if their route in is through the firm’s errors, they would access the email anyway. If they access a different account, then access depends on your password being different elsewhere.


    Appropriate links:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Phil,

      Thank you very much for you comment. You are right, there is an extra security risk which may do not consider, hackers attempting to gain access to private information by attacking the source, the main culprits being Google and Yahoo, as you suggested. However this will always be a security risk regardless of whether you have one online identity or more, having multiple accounts with different companies/firms would be a solution since it will spread the risk.

      With this in mind, this further reinforces the idea of having multiple online identities. If you have one online identity or many under the control of one ‘main’ account then if the firm is hacked into, your personal information is then easily available to those who have access to it.

      However, it is possible to gain information without needed to focus on large companies, which would end up being easier to gain access to. The below link describes this briefly but illustrates how Google’s auto-fill feature can be exploited to reveal an account’s actual user and their sensitive information.


      Appropriate link:


      1. Hi Ollie,

        Thank you for your reply. I would argue that having a central account is not an essential part of having a single identity online. You can have many accounts set up through a single Facebook, Google or other email ID, but that does not necessarily limit you to one identity from that account and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have multiple identities if you use different base accounts on different websites.

        Say for example I choose to go by my name on every website, but I have my accounts split between different email accounts. I can still be traced cross platform by my name, but an email hack would only get part of my online portfolio. Now consider an inverse, I could have a single email which manages all sorts of different account names, these would then be separate identities but managed centrally. In this case, the multiple identities portfolio is less secure if the central email gets hacked.

        The argument I am making in my comment suggests that it is not the number of identities that really makes an identity portfolio less secure, but rather that the management of an identity/a group of identities. If the risk element on security is on the part of the firm, such as was the case with Yahoo in 2013, then the number of identities is not the crucial element, but rather the crucial element is the management of the accounts.



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