Internet - Disclosure of Personal Information On-line and Identity Theft

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Disclosure of Personal Information On-line and the Occurrence of Identity Theft


Identification is a critical and common process which we encounter on a regular basis as we carry out our daily activities. Companies, government agencies and institutions routinely ask individuals for personal information in order to help identify a specific individual from another. In the past, people have relied upon face-to-face exchange of information and identity verification but with the recent explosion of the Internet this system has become relatively obsolete. Personal information that had previously been stored in file cabinets in secure locations is now easily collected and stored on databases. Does this fast and efficient system violate the security of our personal information? Is our personal information and basic identifying data truly secure on the net?

Irwin Winkler’s movie “The Net” illustrates the type of problems that can arise if an individual’s personal information falls into the wrong hands. Winkler’s main character, Angela Bennett, played by Sandra Bullock, fell victim to identity theft as her personal information and key identify data were stolen and used in order to exchange her identity with another.1 Although the plot of the movie seems a little far-fetched, identity theft by means of the Internet is a serious and common problem that occurs frequently in real life.

How do we identify ourselves on the Internet?

In the virtual realm of the Internet physical means for identification verification are relatively non-existent since it requires specific technology, such as biometrics, which is not widely used. Instead the most common methods for identity verif...

... middle of paper ...

... lives an open book just waiting to be read. In order to prevent identity theft on-line we must take into account that Internet companies and the Internet, itself, play just as an important role in identity theft on-line as hackers and thieves.


1. Winkler, I. (1995), “The Net”.

2. Noack, D. (2000), “Identity Theft Thrives in Cyberspace”,

3. Marlin, A. (2000), “Online Identity Theft a Growing Concern”,

4. Barlow, J. (2000), “Privacy On-line: A Shattered Illusion”,

5. Chaum, D. (1996), “Achieving Electronic Privacy”, in High Noon on the Electronic Frontier: Conceptual Issues in Cyberspace, edited by Peter Ludlow, pp.224-225.

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