A few thoughts on personal reputation management

Security Fundamentals - Gary Rollinson
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Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:51 pm

A few thoughts on personal reputation management

Post by noahscales » Fri Sep 03, 2010 3:55 am

I am struck by Gary's mention of reputation management. It reminds me strongly of reputation hacks that people these days do to each other.

For example, a young woman I knew sat down at a computer in the Cabrillo library, and forgot to log out of her e-mail account. The next day, her grandmother called her on the phone in shock, not understanding how she could possibly have such an interest in pornography, and why on Earth she would share that interest with her family. It turned out that someone sat down at the computer she left, gained access to her online e-mail account, and sent a short letter to everyone in her e-mail address book, falsely describing how much she loved porn, how it turned her on, etc. She tried to explain to her family that someone had gotten into her e-mail account and faked her identity, but her credibility was already damaged. She was completely humiliated, and felt ostracized by her family for weeks afterward.

Years later, someone (I never found out who), claiming to be me texted a friend of a friend, asking for a date. Given who all was involved, I was embarrassed and annoyed. Further events opened my eyes to the prevalence of this sort of behavior in grade schools and colleges. Frenemies do it to their frenemies. I just never saw it when I was growing up. I graduated college when the world wide web was just getting started. Almost no one owned a cellphone. Now people can take your picture, send it to a thousand friends, and add their own tagline to it, just to hurt your feelings. The only requirement is a gossip culture fed by narcissism and frustrated aggression. We've got that, by the bucket.

Social networks are drawing tighter. Obviously, individuals have to take more responsibility for their own personal and professional reputations. We need to manage our own information and security policies, but how? Unfortunately, our personal information is both insecure and easy to fake. Identity theft is supposed to be one of the fastest growing crimes in America. I wonder if cyberbullying is growing at the same pace, or faster.

If you read the referenced article on cyberbullying, particularly the stories of young adults who kill themselves after suffering cyberbullying, you can see why cyberbullying would motivate parents to explore cybersecurity policies for their children. What should shock you is how long cyberbullying can go on (literally years), and how far-reaching it can be (see the story on cellphone hacking). The perpetrators are anonymous, safe from persecution. Young kids raised on social network playsites, online avatars, and product branding, equate their self-worth with social acceptance in cyberspace. Popularity is delivered through friendly text messages and avatars as much as actual smiles or inclusion in sidewalk games or slumber parties. Cyberbullying is a direct attack on kids. A smart hacker can fake a child into thinking everyone hates him, and he has no friends, is no good, and on and on...

According to journalist Rachel Simmons, the problem of relationship aggression, already a problem among young girls raised to hide their feelings behind "sweetness", is only magnified by the lens of cyberbullying. Unable to be themselves, angry or nice, they turn mean, very mean, but indirectly, anonymously, or through proxies. Her book "Odd Girl Out", goes into some detail about the hum of relationship aggression that is heard in schools. That hum is inaudible to teachers and parents, who apparently won't do much about it anyway. The book includes extended case studies, involving schoolyard interviews with young kids and high schoolers. Ms. Simmons includes some pop psychology in her analysis, but her portrayal of these kids lives is real. If the topic interests you, I recommend the book.

This class obviously concentrates on information and security policies for enterprises and organizations, but if its principles are relevant to solving the related issue of personal reputation management, then I want to apply the principles with integrity. One thing is for sure: if I ever have children, I'll move them far away from avatar worlds and bullying peers who hide on the internet or inside cellphone networks.

I hope information and security policies will one day solve this problem. If reputation management policies cannot be managed consistently, then people who survive reputation destruction will find themselves among people who don't care about that form of reputation. Our society could divide itself into groups who each reject a different form of software-managed reputation, each group created by a different weakness in the unofficial worldwide reputation management policy. My experience says that people will knowingly perpetuate lies as much as the truth, so I guess you either trust your community or suck it up to survive your community or ...

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/cyber ... /printable
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/ ... our_pocket (cell-phone hacking)


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