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

Establishing persons as entities in social systems  Title:
 Towards a typology of rearrangements of identity linkage


General properties with respect to rearrangement of identity linkage

In this chapter we not only elaborate on identity theft and "identity fraud", but on the broader area of rearrangement of identity linkage, i.e. every modification concerning the link between the identifier of a (partial) identity and the person who is identified by this identifier or who is the bearer (or holder) of this identifier. In a typical setting the identifier of a person (or the person’s partial identity) is being linked to another person. As the widely used terms identity theft and "identity fraud" do not distinguish between identifiers and (partial) identities, the terms proposed in this text are built in a similar way. From the context it will be clear that in most cases the focus is on the linkage of identifiers which point to a partial identity, e.g. consisting of personal data and attributes, possibly including reputation information or authorisations.

Although the full analysis of all possibilities extends beyond the scope of this text, we give a flavour of structural elements which could be further elaborated in further studies: 

  • In general there are different subjects concerned which have to be identified in each constellation: 

    • An original identity bearer, i.e. the person who used the identity originally

    • A non-original identity bearer, i.e. the person who uses the identity originally assigned to another bearer or a non existing identity (e.g., a non-original identity bearer or identity creator) 

    • Possibly: third parties involved, e.g., with a relationship to the original identity bearer or the non-original identity bearer, or observers of related incidents. 

For each subject it is relevant 

    • who initiates the rearrangement of identity linkage, 

    • who knows about the rearrangement or can find out, or 

    • who may profit or may suffer from the rearrangement. 

  • Besides the subjects concerned there are important objects, especially: 

    • Identifiers, which play the main role in rearranging the identity linkage, 

    • Personal data, 

    • Personal and role attributes, especially reputation or authorisations, and 

    • Actions, e.g. communications or transactions with other parties. 

  • In exceptional cases there might be no persons who bear or receive identities. This is e.g. the case when a person in the internet creates up a valid credit card number which is not linked to an account. This person may then act with the authorisation as if there were an existing account until the other party checks at the bank. Here we see that the part of the identity which is used by a non-original identity bearer may not only comprise personal data, but even authorisations without any personal linkage.

  • What is the focus: the process of “rearranging the identity linkage” (e.g. taking/giving the identity) or “use of the identity”? 

  • Is it done intentionally (by whom?) or does it happen accidentally? 

  • Does it happen with consent or (explicitly) against the will of the subjects concerned? 

  • Is the rearrangement of identity linkage unilateral, i.e., one identity is rearranged, or are more identities concerned, e.g., to swap the identity so that the original identity bearer is a non-original identity bearer, too, and vice versa? 

  • Is there a unique (1:1-)linkage to the identity or may the linkage be non-unique (before and/or after the rearrangement)? 

  • Is the rearrangement of identity linkage legally relevant or not? 

  • Do the subjects (possibly) have wrong assumptions on the identity linkage whether it was rearranged or not? What may be the consequences of these wrong assumptions? 


In the following we concentrate on main constellations. Our first distinction is the intention: Does the rearrangement of identity linkage happen accidentally (identity collision) or is it done intentionally (identity change)? 


Establishing persons as entities in social systems  fidis-wp5-del5.2b.ID-related_crime_03.sxw  Towards a typology of rearrangements of identity linkage
Denis Royer 18 / 44