September 11, 2006

Identity in the New Millenium

Eerily, in Hell's Kitchen, a PhD student with my name is running a Symposium on "Identity and Identification in a Networked World". As I've explained in the background of the formation of my handle, my name, and incidentally, his name, is not all that uncommon, especially in the Americas; where, unlike here in Australia, its relatively common, and not the source of all sorts of weird jokes surrounding from an odd sounding name that dares start with Z.
Odd, in that it's not Jones or Smith - Australia has been populated with convicts, refugees and all sorts of other people who for certain reasons wish to change their name to remain inconspicuous.

The symposium aimed to look at how the increasing amount of identifiable information aboiut ourselves appearing online, and the verifibility and associatabilty of that data relates to our modern lives, and attempts by students and graduates to introduce guidelines, techniques and innovations to bring it under control.

ClaimID has some more information on the issue. However Claim ID is not the world's best answer to this dilemna, marketing itself to the insecure, paranoid and technologically illiterate, and also to scam artists and identity thieves themselves, the people they aretrying to combat. The internet, being networked, worldwide easily accessed, insecurily secured data has always been associated with Big Brother in one form. If you know how, it is quite easy to get information on the right sort of people, particularly in Northern America and Europe, and growingly the Middle East, Economically sufficient Africa and Oceana. If its not, Hitch lied to me.

The idea behind Claim ID is simple and sound in theory. "
Imagine that you are applying for a job. You know that your prospective employer is going to search for your name online, and since you're a rational person, that worries you." Look again at the Google of my name, PhD student Michael gets the top few hits, then my blogshares profile (w00t) and then I'm also a law professor, games developer, author of western novels, or a director or an actor on IMDb. It's good to see none of those occupations are the slightest bit geeky... at least no porn stars.
And then there's Mike Zimmer, Mick Zimer, Micheal Zimmer, Michael Zimmerman, Mike Z - oh I was in Japan - マイケルジッママイクルジッママイクルズイマ etc. It's infinite and mindblowing. If you have ever recieved a 419 scam, odds are your information and email address are somewhere on the web, you didn't even have to put it there.

How would an employer know who I was. Claim ID is about tagging information on the internet with your identity. Then giving it to your employer on a platter. This means they will know exactly who you are, and that you weren't convicted of a puppy murdering spree during that gap year between high school and college, that was the other "Michael", the one who comes out from under your bed on Friday nights. Well, no, its about manipulating information to present yet another lie for lazy employers to eat up, and for intelligent employers to be wary of.
I don't list this website on my CV for a reason, I don't want employers reading about how oddly growing potatoes in the cupboard reminded me of hentai (that entry still gets hits from sickos). Have you clicked on any of those webcomic links to the right? Good, I hoped not. Claim ID even says this itself - "people who search for you are able to see the identity you want to present."(their emphasis) - if employers were satisfied with trusting you they wouldn't be googling your name. And there still isn't any foolproof guarantee, that you are who you presented to ClaimID - I could cleverly try and present myslef as a NYU PhD student, who has directs German art cinem and writes westerns on the weekends.

This topic came even more interesting for me, as a prospective employer did actually search for me. I'm trying to get into CSIRO's volunteer fellowship program, I received a hit last week from a csiro IP, though it was located in Illinois, which calls into question outsourcing, and the ability to rely on map-tracking webcounter statistics.
Armed with my CV and cover letter they had been able to narrow down their search, by using my university name as well, "michael zimmer and cqu". This leads them to this site, after a lot of online transcripts involving my Dad's role in university administration. Like when I realised that Amity trainers were aware of this site, it does freak you out a bit - the sweet potato post probably being the worst in terms of bizzarity, but there is also me being depressed about my job and life in general, mild usage of profanities, and a lot more miscellaneous porn related postings.

I have been stripped of anonymity, not that I ever really tried to hide it, but you still can't reliably use the internet to get a picture of someone. Or even build up a picture of yourself. The internet is ultimately unregulated, unverifiable and absolutely totally unreliable - about infinity times more than wikipedia. If an employer really bases its hiring practices on what Google can tell them about you - stuff them - you chouldn't waste your talents working for morons.

And employers, if anyone presents themselves to you with a tool they collated themselves to help you find more accurate and reassuring information abouty themselves, kick them to the curb. They are either paranoid or dishonest.

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At Mon. Sep. 11, 07:32:00 pm AEST, Anonymous Viks said...


I can't believe you made a wiki page about yourself. :o)

(I want one!)

Take care,


At Mon. Sep. 11, 10:14:00 pm AEST, Blogger ZayZayEM said...

It's a user page.

It serves as a useful factual page.

It's main purpose is to explain just wtf zayzayem is all about.

It's Wiki - anyone can do it.

At Tue. Sep. 12, 04:41:00 am AEST, Anonymous Michael Zimmer said...

Greetings. Are you me, or am I you? :)


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