[Dave Birch] Identity by itself isn’t enough to help solve the problem of counterfeiting: both product and provenance must be secure to give confidence. It’s a problem worth solving, because of both the scale of the problem and the potential seriousness — counterfeit handbags is one thing, but counterfeit parts for aircraft another. In the U.K., we tackle the most serious problem (loss of tax revenue to the Exchequer) first: cigarettes subject to UK duty are to carry a “covert security feature” intended to combat the problem of tobacco counterfeiting and smuggling. Apparently, British American Tobacco, Gallaher and Imperial and Phillip Morris have been manufacturing cigarette packets with the security feature since 1 October. The feature “will allow customs staff to use small hand-held readers to authenticate cigarettes” which most commentators have interpreted to mean that RFID tags are being used. Even though I haven’t touched a packet of Marlboro in years, I’m pretty sure this is not the case. Anyone who saw the presentation on Document DNA at last year’s Digital Identity Forum will have seen a more plausible alternative brilliantly demonstrated.

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This is not to be negative about the potential for RFID in anti-counterfeiting, where it is already being used for another kind of document monitoring: fake fake educational certificates and CVs in India. Hyderabad Central University which has partnered with Tata Consultancy Services for introducing RFID tagged degree certificates for its students! I hope they can read the tags here as well: people turning up with bent degrees in management consultancy is one worry (but how would anyone ever tell?), but people turning up with bent medical degrees another. Luckily, though, the tags don’t help with virtual documents. Recruitment experts advise job hunters to Google themselves before stepping out into the competitive job market to see if a search pull ups that blog entry written about legalizing marijuana or drunken party photos with friends (or, in my case, rescuing people from a burning plane while on my way to pick up my Nobel prize).

As our identities steadily become smeared across the Net, this isn’t at all surprising. It seems odd to old folks such as me, but the Internet has become part of the recruitment process. Job hunters perfecting their resumes for that dream job are being urged to also polish their online profile — and clean it up if needs be, with a new breed of companies emerging to help mold Internet images!! That’s right: you can hire your own online spin doctor to make sure that potential employers see the right pages up first when they google you. These people are going to make money. A study of 1,150 hiring managers by Careerbuilder.com found that a quarter of managers Googled prospective employees (which I can imagine doing) and 12 percent of them said that used social networking sites like Facebook.com in their hiring process. Why on Earth would you believe anything on a Facebook page? Surely it can only be an odd sort of prurience — at least until Facebook starts using digital signatures and 2FA. Still, rather shockingly, of the nosey 12 percent, two-thirds based a decision not to hire someone on the basis of what they found on social networking sites (lying about qualifications and criminal behavior were two of the key factors).

It’s not just for jobs, by the way: a friend of mine told me the other day about going on an Internet date and mentioned in passing that he’d googled his date (and fully expected her to have googled him). He said it as if it is entirely normal (I’m sure it is) but when I asked how he assessed what came back to tell if it might be real or not, he was genuinely surprised. There is an entire population out there who think that what they see on Wikipedia pages is entirely true.

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]

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