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Is My Identity Still Mine?
I'm sure you've seen the famous cartoon by Peter Steiner published in the New Yorker in 1993. That cartoon alluded to the anonymity of internet users. Twenty-five years later, do you think it's still true? Or is the cartoon by Kaamran Hafeez that appeared in the February 23, 2015, issue of the New Yorker more realistic? Is online anonymity a thing of the past?
Having just returned from three days at the Connect: ID conference in Washington, DC, my personal perspective is that numerous key elements of my identity are already shared with thousands of others—businesses, governmental agencies, friends, business colleagues, and, unfortunately, criminals—and the numbers are growing. Some of this information I have voluntarily provided through my posts on various social media sites, but hopefully is available only to "friends." Other bits of my personal life have been captured by various governmental agencies—my property tax and voter registration records, for example. The websites I visit on the internet are tracked by various companies to customize advertisements sent to me. Despite the adamant disavowals of the manufacturers of voice assistant devices, rumors persist that some of the devices used in homes do more than just listen for a mention of their "wake up" name. And, of course, there is the 800-pound gorilla to consider: the numerous data breaches that retailers, financial institutions, health care providers, credit reporting agencies, and governmental agencies have experienced over the last five years.
The conference exhibit hall was filled with almost a hundred vendors who concentrated on this identity security issue. There were hardware manufacturers selling biometric capture devices of fingers, palms, hands, eyes, and faces. Others focused on customer authentication by marrying validation of a government-issued document such as a driver's license to live facial recognition. Remote identification and authentication of end users is becoming more and more common with our virtual storefronts and businesses, but is also becoming more challenging as the fraudsters look for ways to defeat the technology or overall process in some way.
I have yet to have my identity stolen or compromised, but notice I said "yet," and I have probably just jinxed myself. Unfortunately, I believe my identity is no longer just mine and is out there for the taking despite my personal efforts to minimize the availability of personal information. Do you agree?
By David Lott, a payments risk expert in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed