Whenever I read a post like this…

Bruce Schneier posts on how he signs guest registers using somebody else's name:

Since I read that, whenever I see a tourist attraction with a guest
register, I do the same thing. I sign "Robert J. Sawyer, Toronto, ON"
– because you never know when he'll need an alibi.

This type of thing goes on all the time among friends – it is juvenile humor at its finest. But it makes me (mildly) uncomfortable to read something like this. I guess I can't understand how someone who respects privacy so much could violate someone else's so easily.

I believe the core issues of privacy revolve around loss of control and misperception. This has both.

I find it even more interesting to consider the outcome of exercises like this on a broader scale – let's say many people start doing this many times… assuming there are also many who value authenticity, it only increases the demand for a national ID program.

3 comments for “Whenever I read a post like this…

  1. Jonas
    September 15, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Surely it was a joke.

  2. David
    September 15, 2009 at 5:31 am

    How would it be different if he signed as ‘M. Mouse’ ?

  3. Pete
    September 15, 2009 at 8:50 am

    @Jonas -

    I am not clear whether it was a joke or not – and by this I assume you mean that he doesn’t really do this, not that he does this with the intent to be funny. Even more importantly, now 50,000 plus readers of his blog have an idea that many of them think is funny and may attempt on their own.

    I don’t think this is a huge issue, but I do find it interesting to see where people draw the line.

    @David -

    I believe signing with a completely fictitious name is different from a privacy perspective and certainly from a motive perspective (there is no intent in your case). Even signing “John Smith” when we know there are many of them around doesn’t have the same impact as something with more identifying information: there are probably few (perhaps just one) Robert Sawyer’s in Toronto.

    Btw, Robert Sawyer (or someone pretending to be him) commented on the blog post as well.

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