[Dave Birch] Because of a talk I gave at the University of Surrey, I was thinking about the labelling of identity “issues”. I remember seeing an post about this by Javelin earlier in the year, which made the point that whatever the actual taxonomy, the fact is the we need to be realistic:

a single overarching term (such as identity theft) is here to stay, and the label preferred by our government is now codified into use from the office of President on down.

I agree with them that, whatever the language, we need to avoid bundling account takeover and the like with “simple” card fraud — which is why the suggestion of “identity fraud” and “card fraud” seems reasonable and because (as was discussed at last years’ Digital Identity Forum, “identity theft” doesn’t really mean anything) — but no-one has yet come up with a good catch-all term to cover both of these. As an aside, there’s always post-modern ironic identity theft, which ought to be special category in its own right. Anyhow, whatever you call it, it’s back in the news again because British MPs have called for an Identity Czar to be appointed (presumably because the whole Drug Czar thing worked out so well).

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Why does any of this matter? Well I can’t help but think that one of the problems that comes up when trying “solve” a problem like this is that the language used constrains the thinking about the solutions. In that respect, neither identity fraud nor identity theft really capture the essence of the problem. On the other hand, I don’t think that the offence of unauthorised binding of a digital identity to real-world entities gets us a very far either — more work needs to be done here. Clearly, identities aren’t being stolen though, so perhaps we can all agree to consign the term “identity theft” to history.

Meanwhile, at the EPG Forum this week, Toby Stephens pointed us to the most amusing comment on identity theft to date…

I made me laugh so much that I’ve already ordered the CD “That Mitchell and Webb Sound: Series 3” from Amazon.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


  1. For my money, identity fraud covers it very well. In the old anglo concept, using another identity was no problem, as long as it was not used for fraud. e.g., the canonical Mr & Mrs Smith checking into a hotel for an afternoon nap. This division between crime and privacy seemed to cover the territory very well.
    (Was the youtube link meant to have video? I just saw the two happy faces when I played it.)

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