Who owns your identity is a question increasingly asked in the social web driven world. Consistent security and privacy issues with social networks such as Facebook are said to be impacting on their rate of growth and raising questions of whether some of us are too reliant on just a few websites to manage our lives. With this comes further questions of how an individual manages or protects their reputation. Think about it for a second: what do you do if you are due to meet someone for the first time, whether for business or pleasure? A. Pick up the latest edition of ‘Who’s Who’; B. Ring a couple of contacts or friends for a third party view of them; or C. Open up Google, type in their name and wait to see what comes up?
It is very likely to be the latter, particularly if you are in the 18-34 age bracket and own a ‘smart’ phone. The challenge then is what do people find when they type your name into Google? Businesses have understood this for some time and engage in complex ‘search engine optimisation’ programmes to make sure the content they want comes at, or near, the top of the search results page. Individuals have been far slower in recognising this challenge to their reputation but seem to be finally grasping the nettle.
This week saw Sir Salman Rushdie, author most famous for The Satanic Verses, go to war with Facebook over his online identity and win. What is even more interesting is the way he went about this – he used another social network, Twitter, to build a campaign and force Facebook to climb down. Rushdie’s complaint was that Facebook has a policy of only allowing real names for their profile pages, Rushdie’s name is actually Ahmed, but clearly the world knows him as Salman. After sending a copy of his passport to the Facebook team they activated an account for him but only in the name of ‘Ahmed Rushdie’ which is when Rushdie began his Twitter campaign to heap "ridicule by the Twitterverse". He drew comparison between himself and other famous people through history who were known by either an initial or their middle name, as the support for his position grew Facebook relented.
It seems to get one over a social network you need to play by their rules, build support amongst a diverse group of followers and be willing to circumnavigate the normal bureaucratic channels. For recognising this I make Sir Salman Rushdie my Communicator of the Week.