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D5.2b: ID-related Crime: Towards a Common Ground for Interdisciplinary Research

Social and Economic Aspects  Title:
 Identity Change, Identity Fraud and Identity Theft from a sociological point of view



Nowadays, people have offline and online lives, and in each they use identity information to access services. Identity allows individuals to perform different essential roles in society (e.g. voter, employee, customer, e-customer, e-client of bank, etc.). Therefore, in view of defining identity, we have to distinguish between offline and online identities and how they are related. Offline identity information can relate to appearance such as hair colour, eye colour, glasses, etc.; it can be social information, e.g. name, postal address, phone number; or it can be represented by identity tokens, i.e. passport, visa, credit card, social security number, bank account number. Online or digital identity can be described in the same way. The information related to the appearance can be incorporated into, for instance, a digital biometric template (fingerprint template, iris template). The corresponding social information can be a nickname, an e-mail address or an IP address. And digital signatures or certificates can be considered as identity tokens for digital identity.

Identity information to bridge offline and digital identities is essential because it plays the role of the interface between offline and online life. Identity information can further be distinguished in information that provides ‘knowledge-based’ identification (e.g. password, PIN) and information gathered from the user context (e.g. profile, user preferences) that links implicitly without consent of the person identified by the data.  

Possessing an identity allows individuals to act in society, and hence adopting someone else’s identity is beneficial to some people. ID theft has always existed, throughout history examples of identity takeovers are recorded for instance. But the advent of the Information Society has dramatically multiplied its occurrence. Technology facilitates the reuse/misuse/usurpation of identity information as it replaces face to face contact and the social checks and conscious processing of personal data that accompanied traditional face to face interaction.

Identity theft is a breeder offence that may lead to identity fraud. Unfortunately, individuals are often unaware of the range of impacts of identity fraud. Identity theft and identity fraud not only concern and affect individuals, but also companies. The main threats here are company takeover and cloning. Furthermore, considering the increasing use of networks (Internet or other networks to exchange information) and the lack of control, the utility of identity theft has grown and anonymous identity fraud is facilitated and may proliferate. Identity theft and identity fraud are therefore important security issues.  

In this section, we first define and explain identity theft and identity fraud in detail from a sociological point of view. We also study their social and economic aspects and impacts, whether tangible or intangible, related to the private or public sector, and finally, we provide an overview on initiatives for countermeasures. 


Social and Economic Aspects  fidis-wp5-del5.2b.ID-related_crime_03.sxw  Identity Change, Identity Fraud and Identity Theft from a sociological point of view
Denis Royer 15 / 44