Identity in the Networked World

Plane ticket: $400. Shopping spree: $1500. Lost identity: Priceless.

The problem of identity theft just keeps growing and growing. With increasing reliance on a few numbers to represent out identity—credit card, bank account, and social security to name a brief few—we are making it easy to sign over our life to strangers.

These numbers can give access to checking accounts or even stock portfolios. Life savings can be taken away with a few bits of code. Here at Brown, I'm known almost exclusively by either my student ID or social security number to the administration. With somebody else's numbers, I could often check their grades or maybe even take a test in their stead.

Cyberspace sees us just as these precious little bits. Usernames, passwords, accounts, and identification numbers are the only things that can mark something as our own. Steal the code and you steal the identity.

Such theft has forced much time and energy to be spent developing higher encryption and security standards. Identity is now at the focal point of public attention.