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Is an on-line secret identity prudent in the era of transparency?


The Internet is losing its anonymity and increasingly merging our work and private lives with individuals and organizations we may never meet or interact with during our lives and careers. Are you comfortable with how much information there is out on the Internet about you, your activities and your associations? Personally, this makes me think about online privacy and personal space. I’ve been taught not to pick up hitchhikers on the side of the road, why should I pick you up or let you follow me on the Internet super-highway 24/7/365?

Social Media are innovative collaborative technologies that use the Internet as their foundation to facilitate open, transparent, and collaborative communities. Social media is also paradigm shift in how individuals interact through the Internet. Common Internet communication channels such as e-mail, static Web sites and mailing lists connect people to information, but have a difficult time supporting conversations or an efficient transfer of knowledge between participants. However social media’s success stems from its ability to connect people to people, and facilitate online networks and communities vibrant with dialogue and information sharing.

The Impact

A culture of information sharing offers stakeholders such as hiring managers the opportunity to form an opinion about you without person-to-person meetings or any substantial context. Virtually anyone can gather information on another individual connected to the Internet. The era of Internet anonymity is coming to a close.

Additionally, our society has little need for connectors anymore; the Web expands our social circles with search features and social and work networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Each tool helps us find who we want, when we want and with approval or request, expand the number of seats at our Internet-based kitchen table. Something to note as well is that people can still follow us and find out information about us without a request or confirmation of friendship or colleague status.

Your interaction with the Web can adversely impact or benefit your life. The future semantic Web will have an uncanny level of awareness about you, your preferences, friends and associations. The question isn’t whether marketers, bosses, peers and teammates will have access to this information, it is can we ever really control what is out there for the reading or viewing pleasure of others?

Can a second, secret identity on the Internet help you maintain some semblance of Internet privacy?

Related Information:

Wikipedia: Internet Privacy

American Civil Liberties Union: Internet Privacy

Federal Trade Commission: Consumer Privacy

Wall Street Journal: Google inquiry over privacy concerns



8 thoughts on “Is an on-line secret identity prudent in the era of transparency?

  1. Interesting post.

    This is anonynous http://www.iloveclosing.com but still there is nothing I wouldn’t be too traumatized to have associated with my professiona career.


    It’s a shame when the 9-5 paycheck limits our ability for self expression.

    The Closer

    Posted by The Closer | March 29, 2009, 9:57 pm
  2. Thanks for the comment. Funnily enough I was browsing @dcblogs on twitter and a teacher posted information on a recent discussion that might add some food for thought.


    Posted by Matt | March 29, 2009, 10:07 pm
  3. Matt, thanks for the link and your comment on my blog. Here’s an interesting addendum:

    I volunteered to remove the blog in question because if people in my building knew that I was blogging and where they could read it, well, then the blog was useless. But instead of stopping blogging (which I never considered), I just started a new blog, which you’ve obviously found.

    The interesting thing to me – because I have thought about this – is that instead of taking care to be more anonymous, I’m actually more detectable. My username, now, is closer to my actual name. I guess my feelings are that if people are going to find my blog, they might as well know it’s me right from the get-go. If I say something objectionable, they can come to me instead of reporting it. And I’ll do a better job of self-censorship.

    Posted by scottahb | March 30, 2009, 4:54 pm
  4. I had worked so hard to remain anonymous and then I purchased a domain name on GoDaddy. For some reason Google linked it to my real name. Never before would you ever have known who I was. I’m a little bummed, but not because of my coworkers or DC people (my coworkers read my blog). Literally, the content was not “parent-safe” and they read the whole fricking thing, just embarrassing.

    I think anonymity is a double-edged sword. I thought I was protected enough to say what I wanted without hurting those that matter to me and it wasn’t so. It is easy to “lose your grip” when you think you are anonymous and what you say cannot really matter.

    Posted by Desiree Aubigny | March 31, 2009, 1:53 am
    • I agree, the Web makes it easy to lose your focus and develop a false expectation that your information online is private.

      Have you put any thoughts into whether or not you will keep your blog or start a new one?

      Posted by Matt | April 2, 2009, 11:44 pm
  5. See, this issue annoys me somewhat because I’m Steve Radick whether you see me in the office or if you see me in bar. Why the double standard for if you see me in the office or you see me on Facebook? Increasingly, the line between offline and online have blurred together. I think that scottahb has it right above – the issue isn’t in trying to maintain anonymity, it should be in ensuring that you’re out there, and that you’re out there totally.

    Posted by Steve Radick | April 1, 2009, 5:12 pm
    • Steve – great points. Can you describe your thoughts about why people have such an aversion to using their personal identity across the Web?

      Is there reason to believe these feelings are going to subside for the next generation of Internet users?

      Posted by Matt | April 2, 2009, 11:37 pm
  6. @Matt – I think it has something to do with the fact that people have been scared to death by the sensationalistic news stories about stolen identities, cyber-stalking, and people getting fired for things on their Facebook pages. This next generation of Internet users have grown up with the Internet – having a Facebook is what they know. It’s nothing new or different like it is for many of us.

    Posted by Steve Radick | April 4, 2009, 5:22 pm

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I hope you enjoy my personal blog. I'll publish posts on various topics and voice my opinions on an eclectic array of things.

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Blog Created On: July 28, 2008 E-mail: crossover65@hotmail.com

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