Friday, November 30, 2007

Identity in the Internet

Identity is important to human beings. We need to find a way to differentiate ourselves from one another. It is integral to our uniqueness and when you think about it, vital to our need for self-expression.

It is amazing to see how this need is translated in the Internet. Handles have taken the role of names and avatars have become a replacement for our appearances. Perhaps we do not notice it anymore but the more personalized a website account can get, the better it is supposed to be. The more our internet identity can mimic our true selves, the more we patronize a particular website or internet service.

When it comes to business or work related accounts, this preference becomes an absolute imperative. It is fascinating to see how the Internet has evolved to accommodate this need. Personal Identity Numbers (PINs) have taken the role of access codes to our accounts, credit card numbers have become the mode of choice in validating online transactions, and a variety of websites now require a slew of personal questions as part of their registration process. The need to unify our internet identities to our actual identities become so important that detailed personal information have become portals, access points to our online identities.

But the truth is we are not who we are in the Internet. These accounts are mere reflections of our true self, extended to the Internet for purposes of ease and convenience. What happens then should they get tampered or perhaps even stolen?

Canada recently passed bills proposing amendments to their Criminal Code. The bills seek to punish not only identity theft but also recklessness such as the absence of precautions around securing customer personal data. The bill was made as part of a growing concern over access to personal information in the Internet, indicating thus the gravity of the problem. Identity in the Internet is susceptible to attack as personal information, due to the nature of the electronic word, is not as easy to protect. It is a problem that we all share as the Internet is borderless, a medium that transcends states boundaries and jurisdiction.

I have yet to hear of legislation addressing similar concerns in the Philippines. Our closest bet may perhaps be the e-commerce act. It is easy to oversee the problem of not having applicable laws as we do not have a developed system for online transactions here in the Philippines. But then again, it may be possible that we do not have a developed system precisely because we do not have the laws.

Elgene L. C. Feliciano

2 comments:

Benjamin Aritao said...

Interesting thoughts elgene... allow me to add a few humble thoughts of my own.

Just to cheer the Philippines on...

Our "systems for online transactions" might not be as lacking as many may perceive.

i.e.

As early as my undergraduate years (2000-2003), i was registering classes online and given an option to pay online.

I trade Philippine stocks online through a Philippine website that i find to be very sophisticated.(www.citiseconline.com) I can pour more money into my online stock account by simply going to BPI's website and clicking away.

My 18 year old sister who is currently studying in sunny Costa Rica checks for her allowance by looking at the bank balances on her Philippine accounts online.

I obtained my tax identification number through a government website.

While riding the mrt last week, my eye was caught by Alessandra de Rossi's ad for for a website called auction.ph. A philippine website for buy and sell.

I order pizza online. :) We buy movie tickets online... and the list goes on. :)

Maybe our lack of legislation is a factor of something other than our ict infrastructure. Maybe its because the geniuses at Congress like to take their time.

Elgene said...

Indeed, we have the ICT infrastructure despite the fact that we do not have the laws. I agree and I am one with you on cheering for the Philippines. Our technology is at pace with the world.

But it is a fact that a lot of people still have concerns about transacting online. Your post and che's indicate that much. By an absence of a developed system, I was thinking not only of the infrastructure but also the culture of purchasing online products. The notion of reliability and convenience that does not exist in the minds of the Filipinos compared to say the americans, japanese or singaporeans. I point to the lack of protection for Internet identity as the culprit, and I believe we agree that the law (or its absence) is to blame.