Integrity Online – Protecting Your Online Identity

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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2018)

A major concern has been the danger of sharing too much of our personal info online. As a result, many have been hacked or have potentially compromised their online and geographical privacy. Should we now present an alter ego instead while online? No, we shouldn’t, but we should be careful what we share. As we discuss our Integrity Online, please understand that we are at the point in time, where our online activity is viewed by others as an extension of who we are, offline.

This is the age of the internet and everyone is linked; shopping, catching the latest news, watching television and hanging out. Some of our daily habits have migrated from the physical realm as we know it, to cyberspace. The World Wide Web has become the hub for business, entertainment and social meet-ups, with the only expense being the initial purchase of a computer of some sort and a monthly subscription to an ISP (Internet Service Provider).

Dual citizenship – Country and Cyberspace

On the web, we have “dual citizenship” without the need for bureaucracy. A realm without immigration or customs, the cyberculture has become a decentralized world without borders. No territorial boundaries or language barriers. There are browser plugins that translate foreign content and let us read in our native language. We have become one cybernation.

There is Freedom

Here we don’t have to declare creed, color, and age. Having total control of our domain, we are unrestricted in this realm and rely on our own discretion and personal values, to relate to our cyber neighbors.

We are free to visit millions of residences without the need for a special invitation. The only requirement is that we enter through the front door, as there are restrictions; specifically, a few walls that prevent us from taking advantage of someone’s privacy behind the scenes. We simply enter with a click.

Who Am I Online? Online vs Offline Identity

Online is where some also meet new friends and sometimes, even future partners. Though most relationships remain online, some subsequently develop into real “tangible” friendships. Many have followed this new trend as in modern-day dating… which brings me to something that can be tricky for us all. Especially since we live in two realms.

Since our presence is now virtual and actual, and online relationships now evolve into lasting partnerships and marriage, we are challenged to present our true identity online. Well, at least on social sites. Hiding behind a persona and pursuing an online relationship is complicated, as we have seen in some ‘reality’ TV shows.

Sharing info online - Online vs offline identity, who am I

Sharing Information Online – How Much Is Too Much?

We can’t be anonymous online and make purchases. Our credit cards require real persons and transaction records are automatically forwarded to merchants.  

To sign up for most sites that offer subscriptions or provide services, we now have the hassle-free option to sign in with SSO (Single Sign-On) Facebook, Gmail, LinkedIn and others. Some even suggest that we use two-factor authentication, which offers an extra layer of security.  This done by using our phone number associated with our Apple, LinkedIn, Gmail account etc. Quite convenient it is – so the people that matter always know who we are.

The real issue then is not to release too much personal info about ourselves and our families, online. This includes (for obvious reasons) our personal address, date of birth (but FB facilitates that), photos of our children… hmm

However, whether we agree with being anonymous or not, the same values that are important while face to face, are just as important in cyberspace.

Genuine identity matters for those

  • who conduct business
  • blog
  • providing some public service
  • providing an academic or professional profile
  • who are seeking genuine relationships (and don’t care about privacy)

This is the only way that our brand, product and reputation will be taken seriously and deserving of any credit or value. 

cyber couple - Online vs offline identity, who am I online

The Web was never intended by its creator Sir. Tim Berners-Lee, to be a place where we hide behind alter egos and fake identities.  It was created primarily for real people to share information within a particular networked group.

Be Sincere but Be Safe Online

However, many have felt pressured into alter egos because of the fear of being victimized for their opinions and freedom to share without the fear of being harassed. It is necessary to mention though that with the introduction of Facebook, Google+ and the like, our online presence is no longer private; though we do have the privilege of some privacy tweaking. However, we can be careful by observing the following;

  • privacy settings — determine who sees your info
  • make sure that sites are secured with “HTTPS” prefix — protects your data/communication by encrypting it
  • do not post your location at any time for obvious reasons
  • do not announce that you are traveling
  • do not share your birth date
  • do not log in to public open hotspots without a VPN (virtual private network)

It is easy to create many personas that represent some modified version of ourselves. It is just as easy to create ten email addresses in ten minutes and be ten ‘different’ people too. While this may work for casual gaming sites and the like, it is not ideal for much else.

Let us be true to ourselves but chose carefully what we do online. Whether buyer or seller, user or content provider, anonymous or known, we must respect and honor our WWW community. Let our online identity match our real-life identity, as far as integrity is concerned. Let us not set out to defraud or present a concept of ourselves that is inauthentic. How different are your online and offline personalities?

Great relationships, success and a pure conscience, depend on personal integrity, online and offline. Click To Tweet

We agree to certain stipulations by default whenever we use the web. To adhere to the copyright laws that protect content, declare and adhere to terms of service and privacy policies, that protect website owners and warn visitors/subscribers. This is supposedly agreed to by a ‘real’ person… us.

Please share your comments below. Thanks!

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David Eversley

David is a musician and IT professional with a passion for writing. When he is not doing any of the above, he can be found watching funny videos and eating chocolates. Laughter (and chocolates) is the best medicine!

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4 Replies to “Integrity Online – Protecting Your Online Identity”

  1. Hi David, this is a very interesting article reflecting on your virtual presence. I believe many of us still need to think more about how the virtual reality is influencing and shaping our lives. We can now interact with people on the other side of the globe and be represented via social media 24/7 Thank you for you article. It is thought provoking.

    1. Hi Sir,

      Thanks very much for reading and taking the time to add to our post on this topic.
      On mentioning social media… It does add a sense of authenticity on an individual level. Our network of friends and contacts’ interaction is there for all to see.

  2. I salute you for a well written yet honest article.

    While we can do almost any transaction online without the hassle of having to actually show up (face-to-face), it’s also important to maintain integrity and honesty in all our dealings. I believe we can reveal our true identity without necessarily giving too much information because there are people out there who will take every chance they get to take advantage of other people.

    Making friends online is a great way to expand our network and let’s face it, the way to succeed in online business is to earn people’s trust. If the people you’re targeting as customers online don’t trust you, they won’t listen to what you’re saying, they won’t buy from you no matter how convincing you think you are.

    So yes, we must be true to ourselves, respect and honor the online community. But what precautions do you think should we can take into consideration when doing business or relationship dealings online so as not to fall victim to people who are using the internet to take advantage of other people?

    1. Hi Alice.
      Thank you for your comments and your additions to our article.
      We must start with ourselves. Everyone who is online should become knowledgeable about basic security… If we are found to be lacking in that area, our own credibility as a business can be at risk. Every business should have a security policy no matter how small. This will define and enforce all the guidelines necessary to maintain a secure presence online.

      That can be as simple as
      1. keeping our own systems updated with the latest patches, virus/anti-malware definitions.
      2. not opening emails that look suspicious; as this may lead to identity theft and our clients could be defrauded, in our very “name.”
      3. having our own websites secured (https) (and other security deterrents) as this speaks to our own credibility as a business.
      The list goes on…

      As you rightly said, we do need “to earn people’s trust.” That’s the answer right there. It’s all about building relationship through transparency.

      1. Google, Yahoo, Bing (and others) are our friends. People should be visible via other sources such as FB, Twitter etc.
      2. Reviews from others – Most credible business are reviewed by others, leverage this.
      3. I usually google images (right-click image=>search Google for image) or names to validate whether they all correlate.
      4. Proper verified contact address of our/their business etc. though I personally wouldn’t advertise too much info as an individual.

      I must say we have come a long way despite the occasional breach now and then. Web hosts, security utilities, operating systems(OSes) and browsers have become reasonably good at protecting us online.

      Thanks again.