Who owns your online identity? Facebook squatters on the rise

I have just read a couple of excellent posts (on SquaredPeg, and InsideFacebook) that talk about something I have been preaching for a while – your online identity and how easily it can be manipulated (or falsely created). The posts talk about Facebook groups and accounts that have been created for the class of 2013 for quite a few colleges in the US. While in fact none appeared to be legitimately affiliated with the incoming class at any of the colleges

Motive? In this incident, it’s mostly marketing – getting ahead start on the right audience can go a long way nowadays.

This is not the last of it. In what may have been the first more publicly exposed online identity “squatting” (remember the domain name cyber squatters of the 90s…) I do expect a lot more to come on that front. So , if you haven’t got a Facebook/LinkedIn/MySpace/ Bebo account yet,  you probably want to make sure you get one soon enough. You’d never know who may be creating an online persona of yourself now. The implications are grave; just thinking of what kind of damage someone could do if he was to create an account for me, connect to my friends and business partners, and start communicating on my behalf is mind-boggling.

So don’t just be safe out there. Be out there!, that is to say, knowing what’s out there under your name is the first step in protecting your online identity.

Update (12/24/08): As noted to me by my colleague Andrew Lindell, this is also true for your real identity as it is manifested online in other means. For example – online banking, bill payments, and online credit card management. If you do not have an account for these – get one now! It’s overly simple to obtain a bank statement or a bill, and use it to set up online banking on your behalf. Even if you don’t plan to use online banking – get an account, put a decent passowrd on it and tuck it away. That way you can be sure that noone can create that account for you using some old banking statement!

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