ONLINE IMPERSONATION: I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE LEFT ALONE V. YOU CAN’T MANDATE HOW I USE MY PRIVACY TOOLBOX

By: Evisa Kambellari*

I. Introduction

In the virtual world, one person can present himself in different identities and several persons can present themselves under the same virtual identity.[1]  Online impersonation can occur in two ways: either by stealing one’s personal information to gain access to his online profile or by creating a completely fake profile.[2]  The fake profile might reveal information that belongs to someone else or be totally fictitious.  Such flexibility in assuming one’s identity online is due to the anonymity that people enjoy in the online world.  Inability to elaborate proper identification tools of Internet users is one of the biggest challenges in preventing and prosecuting social media related crimes.[3]  Online social networking has reshaped human interaction in a way that reduces the barriers that would traditionally keep strangers apart.[4]  Identification requirements are minimal and there is no proper mechanism of verifying the truthfulness of the information one presents in creating an online profile or e-mail account.  However, creating a fake online profile is not a criminal act per se.  The component that turns the lawful act into an unlawful act of online impersonation is the imposter’s malicious intent to “defraud,” obtain a “benefit,” or “injure”.[5]

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