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Privacy Your Rights Online

How Your Username May Betray You 308

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-are-a-number-not-a-name dept.
An anonymous reader writes "By creating a distinctive username—and reusing it on multiple websites—you may be giving online marketers and scammers a simple way to track you. Four researchers from the French National Institute of Computer Science (INRIA) studied over 10 million usernames—collected from public Google profiles, eBay accounts, and several other sources. They found that about half of the usernames used on one site could be linked to another online profile, potentially allowing marketers and scammers to build a more complex picture the users."
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How Your Username May Betray You

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  • Re:No problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by georgesdev (1987622) on Monday February 14, 2011 @01:52PM (#35201648)
    How about: they start creating a fake account with your user name on facebook, become friend with some of your linkedin contacts, post on your new friends walls a scam using distorted extracts of what you posted on slashdot. Ok, you did a decent job of hiding your true name with that GameboyRMH ID, but still, if you use the same ID on lots of sites, you're still vulnerable to the kind of scenario I mention above. Personally, any online account that is indexed by search engines, I use a fake ID, and move to another one every 2 years, and it's not the same as my email address, etc ...
  • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:02PM (#35202406)

    Constantly changing my identity and browsing habits just to throw off marketers.

    Marketers are the least of our worries. The problems come from those who would use the marketers' databases for purposes other than marketing. Things like blackmail - such as a "straight" married politician who frequents a lot of gay websites. Or barratry (which is generally not illegal) such as Sony trying to subpoena youtube's records of everybody who has viewed a video on how to crack the PS3. Or the police state gone awry where they use the data from those gps services that record your position to back-fit cases to people who have done nothing more suspicious than be within a few blocks of a crime.

    The list of potential abuses of this sort of information is practically infinite - you may never be personally bothered by it, but then again relatively few people are ever assaulted or robbed or had their car stolen, but we still take precautions against all of those too.

I'm all for computer dating, but I wouldn't want one to marry my sister.

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