Thursday, July 16, 2009

Twitter Combats ID-squatting but is it enough?

Twitter Verified Logo
Any of us who use Twitter on a daily basis who get bogus followers and femmebots know what a pain in the butt fake profiles can be. On June 6th, Twitter announced on their blog about the Twitter verification process. It seems they've been moving through the celebrity tweeple for now because I saw it as I was checking out @wilw's twitter profile. (If you don't know who Wil Wheaton is, he's the actor who played the doctor's kid, who became an ensign on Star Trek Next Generation series.) I checked some other personalities like @WilliamShatner and his account was verified, too. I think they're moving through the twitter elite first before the program it's available to us mortals. If it's ever available.

With hacks, security lapses, and impersonations galore, folks will want to be verified. For people who work and live online, our identities are priceless. We take years building up profiles. Our accounts, data, and networks are very important to us. Brands or even fake personalities like Bruno wouldn't be able to market and pull off campaigns if there were others hijacking or using the names. ID-squatting can not just damage reputations but can lead to financial losses.

I use OpenID via ClaimID but it takes a while for an average user to figure out the system. Steve Rubel calls it "geeky". Right now, there's no real unifying process across all social networks unless it's passing info to that specific social network. New apps pop up every day and new sites come online. The average Joes and Janes are moving onto social networks to interact with friends and family. They're not going to think twice about protecting themselves online.

Privacy is an after thought, no one really looks for that little button that limits views of your profile. Case in point: Facebook and MI6: MI6 chief's wife posted family photos and details of their home. For ordinary people, that's a simple fun thing to do online. Everyone does it. But for an MI6 chief, it can be life threatening. Same thing goes for diplomats. And diplomats' wives do blog, if you know where to look or who to look for.

Social networks are moving so fast and becoming popular that governments, and companies can hardly keep up. There are no manuals on how to protect your online identity or even awareness campaigns on why we need to protect our IDs. We're also not developing tools fast enough to combat this problem. Once a system is in place, there will be less femmebots, fake profiles, and spammers. Just like ISPs and email marketers have come up with strong systems to block and punish those who abuse the system, there has to be a way to control it in the social media arena.

There has to be a balance, to let people have fun while protecting their privacy. What are your thoughts?