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mirifique's avatar

What do you think is the likelihood that eventually there will be accessible means to discern your true identity from your online, anonymized one?

Asked by mirifique (1540points) November 19th, 2009

This question is extremely interesting to me for its implications for the future of (e-)privacy and internet communications. I realize that this it is already possible by way of court orders to force social media companies or forum hosts to produce your IP address, thus tracing to your ISP account, but what do you think is the likelihood that the internet will evolve in such a way as to allow for publicly-accessible sites or software that could easily reveal your true identity from your screen name on forums, blogs, Q&A sites like fluther, etc.? Not that I have anything to hide, but I think sometimes I get a little comfortable in knowing that my screen/username provides a certain degree of privacy.

Perhaps private investigators can already do this?

Is it inevitable? Is anyone else concerned by this?

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10 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

high probability. prepare now

nxknxk's avatar

I’m concerned. I’d rather not see it happen and I hope it doesn’t but it’s not impossible.

Anyway there’s no true anonymity I think.

Kraigmo's avatar

This data mining technique already exists right now. The CIA has purchased a huge stake in In-Q-tel, who specializes in these sorts of things.

Furthermore, even without sophisticated CIA techniques, I’ve been occasionally able to figure out who people online really are. (Nobody here, though).

Kraigmo's avatar

@mirifique , just by using a combination of Google, Spokeo, and Zabasearch… I can figure out a whole lot about a person. Those are free services. If I used the paid services, I could find out even moreso.

People leave different bits of info on different websites they use. The trick is to combine all that info together. Usually people use similar names and/or or passwords on their accounts, too.

Sarah Palin’s password to Yahoo was discovered by a very simple social hack: Tell yahoo you forgot “your” password, and they ask two personal questions before they give you a new, temporary password. Since Sarah Palin’s life is so public, the answers to her two “security questions” were easily found, and thus her e-mail was easily broken into by social hackers.

But even without breaking into someone’s email, you can figure out a whole lot about them by figuring out all the sites they use, using Spokeo and Google, then after that, reading all the info and combining it… which usually leads to more information.

ratboy's avatar

Seriously @mirifique, do you seriously think we don’t who you are, where you live and what you do?

hearkat's avatar

An industrious and resourceful stalker might be able to dig up more… but then again, that’s probably true of nearly everyone.

On another site, I know a gentleman whose job was to try to hack things as a means of testing system security… he is very protective of his information. Much like @daloon here, who has also strived to protect his identity. But I still think that if I were really motivated and wanted to track them down, they could be found.

mirifique's avatar

@everyone Thanks for your responses and answers. But my question was more about if there will be accessible means (i.e., not requiring any real “motivation” or semi-advanced technical skills) to trace your username to your real name, not just uncover information related to your real name… Does that make sense?

Kraigmo's avatar

@mirifique, yeah that makes sense, but if there’s the technical-skill method of finding all this info out… then that automatically means there are, and will be, accessible means to do this. All someone has to do is combine all the manual tricks into a single automatic program. That’s very easy for a programmer, and I bet this has been already done to perfection by In-Q-Tel. Then eventually this technology will hit the black market, and then the general population will have access to it. I bet this has already occurred, in fact. There will come a time when nothing about almost everyone’s life will be private. That is inevitable.

The bottom line is if I can figure out a person’s real identity based on their screen name, and I have, then that means designing a program to automate that process would be as simple for a programmer, as baking a cake would be for a chef.

MajorDisappointment's avatar

Resistance is futile!

As soon as anyone is willing to pay for your information, it will be offered for sale.

Web sites, even this one, may conceal the methods they use to generate income streams.

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