Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Identity hijacking on social media

As most readers have heard, Apple announced iPad Mini yesterday.  My news feed has been plastered with iPad Mini reviews from tech bloggers, industry analysts, and newspaper columnists.  Among them, I saw one interesting article on my Google+ Explore feed.  It caught my eyes because no one other than Tim Cook, CEO of Apple commented on the post.

They were comments to Armando Ferreira's video blog
reviewing iPad Mini in comparison to Android tablet.
You can check out the review at the link below.

Wait.  Did I see that right?  Apple CEO Tim Cook is on Google+?  Apple just removed YouTube and Google Maps from iOS6.  Tim Cook cannot be on Google+.  Tim Cook won't be leaving comments like that on a tech blogger's unflattering review of iPad Mini.

Upon visiting Tim Cook's profile, it's easy to see that it was not Tim Cook, Apple CEO, but a parody of his identity with United Fruit Company as his place of work.

May look harmless as parody, but it could happen to anyone
with intent to harm victim's reputation.

This is an obvious violation of Google+ Terms because of unauthorized use of Tim Cook's photo and his forged identity.  But what's concerning is that as the victim of identity hijacking there is a little that you can do to protect yourself.  All you can do is to report identity forgery cases to social media sites after the fact, and that is if you find out about what has been done.

As social media takes greater role in our everyday lives, we take it for granted that people that we see on the net are who they say they are.  We use the information provided by social media as the claimed authors' because there is little that we can do to check the true identity.

What if someone used your identity to post something that you did not say or did?  What happens if you did not get your job because of the false information getting picked up by your future employer?  What happens if your account is used to leak your client's sensitive information on social media?  Who would be responsible?

It may look funny when someone hijacks public figure's social media identity to create parody.  But social media sites that allow users to easily create forged identity is a ticking time bomb.


  1. It's an obvious identity theft. A CEO wouldn't do such thing just to gain more customers. Sabotaging the website of your enemy would just show how uneasy you are on your product and the outcome of your competition.

  2. Yes, it is. The problem is that we are all vulnerable to identity theft like this. As social media takes deeper root in our lives, we will need to raise our awareness and ask social media sites to do a better enforcement.