December 1, 2023

Rushdie Wins Facebook Fight Over Identity

Would Facebook, he scoffed, have turned J. Edgar Hoover into John Hoover?

“Where are you hiding, Mark?” he demanded of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, in one post. “Come out here and give me back my name!”

The Twitterverse took up his cause. Within two hours, Mr. Rushdie gleefully declared victory: “Facebook has buckled! I’m Salman Rushdie again. I feel SO much better. An identity crisis at my age is no fun.”

Mr. Rushdie’s predicament points to one of the trickiest notions about life in the digital age: Are you who you say you are online? Whose business is it — and why?

As the Internet becomes the place for all kinds of transactions, from buying shoes to overthrowing despots, an increasingly vital debate is emerging over how people represent and reveal themselves on the Web sites they visit. One side envisions a system in which you use a sort of digital passport, bearing your real name and issued by a company like Facebook, to travel across the Internet. Another side believes in the right to don different hats — and sometimes masks — so you can consume and express what you want, without fear of offline repercussions.

The argument over pseudonyms — known online as the “nym wars” — goes to the heart of how the Internet might be organized in the future. Major Internet companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have a valuable stake in this debate — and, in some cases, vastly different corporate philosophies on the issue that signal their own ambitions.

Facebook insists on what it calls authentic identity, or real names. And it is becoming a de facto passport vendor of sorts, allowing its users to sign into seven million other sites and applications with their Facebook user names and passwords.

Google’s social network, Google+, which opened up to all comers in September, likewise wants the real names its users are known by offline, and it has frozen the accounts of some perceived offenders.

But Google has indicated more recently that it will eventually allow some use of aliases. Vic Gundotra, the Google executive responsible for the social network, said at a conference last month that he wanted to make sure its “atmosphere” remained comfortable even with people using fake names. “It’s complicated to get this right,” he said.

Twitter, by sharp contrast, follows a laissez-faire approach, allowing the use of pseudonyms by WikiLeaks supporters and a prankster using the name @FakeSarahPalin, among many others. It does consider deceitful impersonation to be grounds for suspension.

The debate over identity has material consequences. Data that is tied to real people is valuable for businesses and government authorities alike. Forrester Research recently estimated that companies spent $2 billion a year for personal data, as Internet users leave what the company calls “an exponentially growing digital footprint.”

And then there are the political consequences. Activists across the Arab world and in Britain have learned this year that social media sites can be effective in mobilizing uprisings, but using a real name on those sites can lead authorities right to an activist’s door.

“The real risk to the world is if information technology pivots to a completely authentic identity for everyone,” said Joichi Ito, head of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “In the U.S., maybe you don’t mind. If every kid in Syria, every time they used the Internet, their identity was visible, they would be dead.”

Of course, people have always used pseudonyms. Some, like Mark Twain, are better known by their fake names. Some use online pseudonyms to protect themselves, like victims of abuse. Still others use fake names to harass people.

Facebook has consistently argued for real identity on the grounds that it promotes more civil conversations.

“Facebook has always been based on a real-name culture,” said Elliot Schrage, vice president of public policy at Facebook. “We fundamentally believe this leads to greater accountability and a safer and more trusted environment for people who use the service.”

Real identity is also good for Facebook’s business, particularly as it moves into brokering transactions for things like airline tickets on its site.

Article source:

Sony Says Parts of PlayStation Network Will Be Back Online This Week

TOKYO — Sony said Sunday that parts of its PlayStation Network would be back online this week after hackers infiltrated the service, made off with detailed personal information about users and forced a catastrophic system shutdown.

But a full rebooting of the network, which links 77 million game players worldwide, could take until the end of the month, the Japanese electronics and entertainment company announced at a news conference in Tokyo.

“I am deeply sorry for worrying, and inconveniencing, our users,” Kazuo Hirai, Sony’s executive deputy president, said, bowing deeply.

The security debacle has dealt a serious blow to Sony’s bid to build an online network that brings games and music content to its universe of gadgets. Sony has trailed in building an online presence behind companies like Apple and its popular services, iTunes and the App Store.

Sony has also faced questions about whether it moved quickly enough to inform its users of the breach. The PlayStation Network went down April 20, but Sony did not disclose that personal data had been stolen until a full week later.

A subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives has sent a letter to Sony asking for information about the attack. Among its questions are when the intrusion occurred, whether Sony knew who was responsible and when the company had notified law enforcement agencies.

According to Sony, an “unauthorized person” hacked into Sony servers last month and obtained personal information on PlayStation and Qriocity account holders, including their names, addresses, e-mail addresses and user names and passwords for the PlayStation Network.

The company said that other information, including credit card numbers, might have been involved, warning customers to “remain vigilant” by monitoring for identity theft or financial losses.

The hacker attack focused on Sony severs on three days in mid-April, Mr. Hirai said. The company first became aware of the intrusion April 19 and shut down its servers the following day.

Sony said that user names and passwords to the network had not been encrypted but that the credit card information it had for about 10 million users had been and that there was yet no evidence that those data had been taken.

The company is working with the F.B.I. in the United States and with law enforcement agencies in other countries in investigating the attack, it said.

Mr. Hirai acknowledged that Sony had been slow in providing information on the network breach to its users. It took the company time to gather accurate data on the breach, he said.

“Inspecting and analyzing a vast amount of data unfortunately took a lot of time,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that the information we provided was accurate as possible.”

Mr. Hirai said that online networks would remain central to Sony’s business. The new Qriocity service, which streams audio and video content to Sony’s high-end televisions, Blu-ray players and other Web-enabled devices, was also knocked offline in the attack.

Once the network is up and running, users will have to change their passwords before they can connect. Sony will offer free content and other giveaways as part of an “appreciation program,” the company said.

Many features will be back up this week, but the PlayStation Store, where users buy games, movies and other downloadable content, will not be available until later this month, Sony said.

“Sony continues to place utmost priority on its network strategy,” Mr. Hirai said. “We intend to continue our global expansion.”

Article source:

Bucks: Remain Calm Over the PlayStation Breach

Fans of Sony’s PlayStation already were upset that they couldn’t go play their favorite video games with their friends on the Internet. The PlayStation’s online network has been down since last week in the aftermath of a hacking incident.

Now, the network’s 77 million account holders have learned that the hackers obtained personal information, like their names, street addresses, e-mail addresses and PlayStation account user names and passwords.

A red-faced Sony said it couldn’t be sure, but that credit card numbers and expiration dates might have been compromised, too. The company said it was warning account holders about the possible credit card breach in “an abundance of caution.”

So what should you really be worried about, if you’re a PlayStation network account holder? Obviously, no one wants to have their credit card information taken and possibly used for nefarious purposes. But the odds of serious financial damage from the incident appear to be low.

For starters, the hackers in this type of situation are often looking for notoriety, rather than to resell financial information. (One group known for doing this sort of thing disclaimed responsibility for the PlayStation hack but sounded sort of disappointed. “For once, we didn’t do it.”) And even if you were unlucky enough to be one of the 77 million card numbers whose account information ended up being resold for criminal purposes, you’d see the suspicious charges on your account. We all know by now that we should be monitoring our credit card statements regularly. Right?

The incident does suggest that it’s probably best to use credit cards for continuing automatic payments, like subscriptions for gaming networks and other services, rather than a debit card, if that’s an option. At least with a credit card, you get a warning that something’s not right, and your liability for unauthorized use is limited. With a debit card, the funds could just vanish from your bank account. Even with a debit card, though, your losses are generally limited if you report the problem to your bank promptly. (Again, you’re supposed to be watching for this sort of thing.)

So it seems as though following the standard advice about preventing identity theft -– monitor your accounts and report problems promptly — should allay concerns about serious problems arising from this incident. Do you agree?

Article source: