back to article Just who are you and why does it matter?

After a year spent watching people use the internet, and questioning more than 5,000 of them, two Alcatel Lucent staff have distilled into a modest-sized book their conclusions on how we balance online privacy with web identities. Identity Shift, written by Allison Cerra and Christine James, paints a picture of America's …


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  1. Mme.Mynkoff

    Multiple personas

    >> Perhaps the inhabitants of the Googleplex don't have private lives worth separating, but the researchers compiling Identity Shift don't bring up the issue of how users could present multiple personas online, perhaps because users aren't really doing that yet.<<

    Users of bulletin boards, forums (and Wikipedia) have been presenting multiple identities since the days of acoustic couplers. Multiple identities do indeed completely bugger up the best-laid plans to harvest our data.

    This is such a serious omission I fail to see how their 'research' is worth reading. Maybe they had decided their conclusions in advance? Which researchers never, ever, do.

  2. Pete 2

    One vital piece of information

    > questioning more than 5,000

    As well as knowing how many people they *did* survey, we need to be told how many declined to take part. If they had to approach (say) 50,000 to get their self-selecting sample that tells us that 90% of people are more guarded and careful about their personal information than want to discuss it with researchers - or potential scammers: there's little to distinguish them when they're "n the field".

    That would tend to put a more conservative slant on the results - though by how much is impossible to say. But possibly enough to make a lot of the results less, or very, insignificant as a result. Without that information we can't form an opinion on their results.

  3. mrwilmot

    Actually, it's very easy to have multiple personalities with Google, if you so desire. You can simply make separate gmail accounts as needed and, if you want, simply forward mail from your secondary personalities to your primary account for easy review. Thus, I have one for gaming, a couple for business and a personal one.

  4. JC 2
    Paris Hilton

    Horribly Flawed Study

    Their sample group had to be quite badly selected if 10% surveyed admitted having Google Alerts set up. Ask a reasonably random group of citizens in 1st and 2nd world countries what Google Alerts are and even that will get blank stares 90% of the time.

    1/3rd admitted actively seeking out faked social networking accounts? Now I'm wondering if the data was just cooked, people don't have THAT much free time except a certain subset that is constantly on the internet in social forums, though I'm sure if you pitched a few leading questions to this group then let them pick what seemed like the cautious/prudent answer, many would pick the "I'm keeping myself informed" answer regardless of whether it were true.

    Only 30 households and the researchers met "several" girls who'd found their photographs adorning profile pages of unknown people? Very, very unlikely to find such needles in a haystack unless one were only talking about friends of friends on Myspace. Yes I'm sure it happens and at too high a rate but several incidents among a random sampling of 30 residences? Bollocks.

    Our information is indeed flowing out of control but the survey results presented appear very crafted and self serving.

  5. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


    When I wake up in the morning, I don't ask myself "Who am I?", I ask "What am I?"

    Answers on a postcard to..

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bunch of corporates...

    ... asking huggy-feely questions with the aim of ferretting out the best way to corporatize then monetize people's identity? Well, there's a surprise. From the description doesn't seem they've done a very thorough job of that either. Seems you've saved me reading the book then. Thanks.

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