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Privacy as Modesty and the Uninterrogated Equality Rights of LE

posted by:Jane Bailey // 11:59 PM // February 27, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


On August 25, 1995, LE, a 42-year-old single mother of two, attempted to pay for a cab with an invalid credit card. [1] The cab driver refused LE’s subsequent offer to pay with cash she had quickly arranged to borrow from another tenant in her building. Instead, the driver notified the police. After a CPIC search, the officer called to the scene found evidence of an outstanding warrant for failing to appear at trial relating to charges of obtaining credit by false pretences. In the 18 hours that followed, LE was strip searched, confined to a cell under video surveillance, denied a blanket despite the cold temperature in the cell (since apparently no blankets were available at the time), after which she was observed pretending to hang herself from the cell bars with her bra strap, forcibly stripped of her clothing after she refused to remove them, told not to position herself in the cell so as to escape video surveillance (which she refused to do) and ultimately handcuffed naked to the cell bars where she was visible to all those passing by for at least 20 minutes until blankets (ironically) were taped to the outside of the bars, according to the trial judge, “in order to give [her] some privacy” [para. 41].

LE’s civil action alleging, amongst other things, negligence, assault and breach of her ss. 7 and 12 Charter rights was dismissed. Almost as disturbing as the facts of the case itself, are the motifs of privacy’s gendered legacy present in the trial and Court of Appeal decisions. Even more fundamentally, what emerges from the case is a transparent example of what Lise Gotell has referred to as the “nothingness” of privacy as it is currently framed in law and the seeming futility of purely privacy-based claims for members of many equality-seeking communities [(2006) 43 Alta. L.R. 743].

The trial judge found that the authorities’ forcible removal of LE’s clothing was consistent with an established policy of removing the clothing of both male and female prisoners who have attempted suicide or who, as in LE’s case, have pretended to attempt suicide. The judge further found that the policy was reasonable and noted that LE was left “without the blankets protecting her modesty for a period not exceeding 20 minutes”[para. 42]. LE’s “modesty” is referred to four more times in the reasons of the Court of Appeal – generally in the context of the Court’s conclusion that the trial judge adequately considered LE’s privacy and dignity claims. As Anita Allen and Erin Mack have carefully demonstrated, the gendered legacy of privacy has frequently meant that privacy claims are afforded different content, depending upon the gender of the person asserting them [(1990) 10 N. Ill. U. Rev. 441]. The privacy of male claimants has typically been understood in the case law as necessary for independence and autonomy of choice, while for women “privacy” has too often been analysed as necessary for maintaining “modesty” – a term simply serving as code for a classed and raced analysis that saw women’s forced seclusion in the “privacy” of the home as the preferable means to protect their most highly prized possession – their “virtue”. To understand what happened to LE as primarily an affront to her “modesty” is to ignore both its impact on her status as a thinking, independent, autonomous human being, as well as the way in which that affront depended for its dehumanizing impact on the stereotypical shaming associated with public exposure of women’s bodies.

Apart from the unnamed, but gendered characterization of privacy in the judgments, the Court of Appeal’s perhaps most jarring line states: “[LE] properly conceded in oral argument before this court that there is no free-standing right to dignity or privacy under the Charter or at common law” [para. 63]. In the absence of a s. 8 claim relating to unreasonable search and seizure or a claim premised on some other specific statutory authority (like that provided, for example, to convicted sex offenders whose information or DNA is sought for inclusion in a government-run registry or databank), as far as the law is concerned, it seems women in the position of LE can really only talk about whether the conduct of authorities is consistent with Charter values – with privacy being one of them. Unless they can wedge their claims into one of these other pigeon-holes, they have no independent legal grounds for asserting a claim that being handcuffed naked to cell bars in full view of passersby, while also under video surveillance, constitutes a violation of their privacy. (And presumably, similarly, no independent basis for asserting a claim that a policy that automatically requires stripping prisoners of their clothing after they have attempted suicide or feigned such an attempt, violates the “right” to privacy – since no such independent right exists.) Interestingly, the Court of Appeal’s jarring statement was more recently relied upon by a court as the basis for striking out a privacy claim asserted by a Black woman lawyer in relation to alleged racist epithets by another lawyer [[2006] OJ No. 4134].

It is striking to so directly confront the idea that for Canadians privacy is little more than an interpretive principle for assessing the conduct of the authorities unless the claim arises in the context of a “search and seizure” or under a specific statute that adverts to a right of privacy, when so many of us (particularly in socially disadvantaged communities) are so regularly exposed to exercises of authority that have little or nothing to do with these situations. In the context of claims such as LE’s, where the gendered and raced legacy of privacy and dignity are so evident, I cannot help but revert again to the need for an understanding of privacy and dignity premised upon and framed within the “free-standing right” to substantive equality. Under that rubric, we might interrogate some different questions. While the policy of stripping all prisoners who attempt or feign an attempted suicide is facially written to apply equally to men and women, we must ask against persons of which race and gender is it statistically more likely to be applied? And how might such a policy’s meaning and effect be interpreted differently if it were considered in the context of gender and race inequality and the discriminatory sexualized stereotypes of Aboriginal and Black women that Gotell, and Allen and Mack have shown to be the basis for denying some women even the minimalist patriarchal protection of “modesty” historically afforded middle class white women? How are we to understand the meaning of privacy and dignity for those of us in equality-seeking communities unless the law is required to interrogate them in context?

It seems the best hope for privacy and dignity is equality.

[1] The following discussion is based on: LE v. Lee, [2000] O.J. No. 4533 (SCJ) ; rev’d [2003] O.J. No. 4239 (SCJ, Div Ct); rev’d (2005) 77 O.R. (2d) 621 (CA); leave to appeal refused, [2005] SCCA No. 516. Prior to dismissing LE’s application for leave to appeal, the SCC had dismissed a motion by Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, Inc. to intervene on the application for leave to appeal.

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Wherever You Go, There You Are: Inserting Privacy Into Our Everyday Space

posted by:Anne Uteck // 11:59 PM // February 20, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


Note: this posting essentially represents snippets of my current research in progress.

Anyone familiar with J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter cannot help but be struck by its devices of wizardry. These devices provide some idea of what it might mean to embody awareness in the physical world, precisely the shift we will experience as computational power moves beyond the desktop into everyday objects. Much of the charm from this popular series comes from the quirky magic objects that surround Harry and his friends. Rather than being solid and static, these objects embody initiative and activity - read surveillance capability. Take for example, the Pensieve which stores thoughts and memories for later retrieval: think cameras, chips and tags that capture ever-bigger parts of our experience, especially as they are integrated with devices that know our agenda, the places we visit and the people we are meeting with; or the Weasley’s clock - completely useless if you wanted to know the time, but able to pinpoint where each family member might be, work, school, home or even travelling, lost or in the hospital, and the Marauder’s Map having icons that represent people as they move around Hogwarts Castle: think geo-spatial technologies that bring the same feature to open spaces. Next generation magic or next generation technology? By whatever label, they prompt us to start thinking more about space, the space of our everyday lives, how it is being transformed and increasingly vulnerable to a new wave of technologies that make us more visible and more exposed. This, in turn, raises questions about spatial privacy, its nature and scope, and its viability for legal protection.

Emerging location, or geo-spatial technologies, such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Radio-Frequency-Identification (RFID) and advanced wireless devices are being introduced into all facets of everyday real life. This new wave of powerful technologies are finding their way into our homes, cars, cellular phones, identification documents and even into our clothing and bodies. Within the context of growing technological convergence, they have the unique ability to locate and track people and things anywhere, anytime and in real time. There is nothing new, nor necessarily sinister about wanting to locate people and objects and track their movement from one place to another. Clearly, there are some compelling advantages to such enhanced capability. For example, emergency services are better able to find accident victims, commercial organizations are able to improve the way they do business by fleet, product and employee tracking; parents may want to be sure their children are safe; and retailers, stadiums and other service-oriented facilities can adjust staffing levels and product inventory to best accommodate consumer patterns. For government intelligence and law enforcement, serving the public interest includes managing risk, which translates into increased security applications for monitoring people and things, especially given the shift towards a safety and security state. Overcoming many of the limitations inherent in the passive mainstream technologies, this generation of location-based technologies makes all of these things possible, automatically, remotely, accurately, continuously and in real time.

The obvious privacy and surveillance implications, however, are staggering and these concerns are rendered more pressing and more complex as the technologies are combined, integrated, connected, invisibly and remotely to networks, forming part of a wider movement towards a society characterized by ubiquitous computing (UBICOMP). In the ubiquitous networked society, computing devices are embedded in everyday objects and places with the potential for comprehensive monitoring and surveillance that is not contained by space or time, thus crossing both physical and social boundaries. This, in my view, is deeply problematic because the core privacy interests individuals have in sustaining personal, physical or even psychological space are potentially diminished, particularly over the long term as networked location technologies destabilize personal spheres and challenge our fundamental ideas about personal space and boundaries and the privacy expectations that go with them.

Canadian law, principally s.8 of the Charter, recognizes a reasonable expectation of spatial privacy, and purportedly its protection, at least in theory, extends to people. However, the parameters have been confined to ownership or at least, the physicality of the place. In other words, the territorial spectrum of protection has been narrowly constructed by the Supreme Court of Canada. On the current spatial assessment of privacy interests, you can point to barriers that are sustaining its protection. In most cases it is a tangible barrier that clearly delineates the boundary crossed triggering section 8. However, even where there has been no actual physical boundary crossed (trespassed), the intrusion has been assessed as an expectation of privacy in the place under surveillance. In other words, the context engaging section 8 protection is not what capacity the person is acting, but where physically the person is and a tangible boundary that can be identified as being crossed. As more of our lives in private places, personal spaces and movement across all spaces are potentially caught within a web of constant accessibility, the current spatial privacy construct does not take into account the nature of changing technologies, rendering irrelevant protections afforded by the traditional analysis because there is no tangible boundary crossed and the surveillance is capable of moving with people as they leave their homes and move from place to place. The current spatial privacy protection does not get at the core of what is ultimately objectionable: our desire to limit intrusions into our space, affairs, bodily sphere, attention paid to us, freedom from observation and of movement without the threat of being watched – visible and exposed. Thus, there is a need for a new conceptual apparatus for spatial privacy capable of sustaining legal protection for the entire array of privacy interests articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Should we be concerned? Yes. Rhetoric and over-reaction? Perhaps. However, identifying the need for a renewed consideration of spatial privacy interests in response to location-based technologies is compounded by an on-going concern, namely, that the discourse on privacy and privacy protection has centered on assessing interests principally in informational terms. I would go so far as to suggest that the predominant theoretical, analytical and practical emphasis in policy, legal and scholarly discourse has been on the data protection model of informational privacy.

Spatial privacy interests have long been marginalized and largely overlooked in the context of technology and surveillance. While protecting information was a reasonable focus forty years ago when the primary concerns related to the growth of information technologies and the creation of large databases to store personal information, today the privacy implications of new technologies are not just about data processing or informational privacy interests. Moreover, data protection laws and constitutional analysis of informational privacy do not address the central threats to spatial privacy arising from location-based technologies. Aside from the nature and quality of information that may be gathered by the use of these technologies, their embeddededness everywhere in the physical world calls for a privacy assessment that more broadly considers people and their space. In fact, the language of data protection and focus on an informational analysis constrains a more robust discussion of privacy and risks collapsing spatial privacy interests into the informational paradigm. This is not to suggest that the baby be thrown out with the bathwater, but it does reinforce the need to construct a more effective means by which to bridge spatial, informational and personal privacy protection.

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i want you to want me: the effect of reputation systems in online dating sites

posted by:jennifer barrigar // 11:59 PM // February 13, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


This piece is abstracted from a longer paper that is currently seeking publication venue.

By now it is almost trite to point out that the scale and breadth of the internet opens up the possibility of reaching large numbers of people quickly and easily, facilitating social and commercial matching on a scale hitherto unimaginable. At the same time, however, the internet is fraught with ambiguity. Text communications are denuded of gesture, tone and the million nuances that inform our interpretation of meaning. Even in visual arenas such as You Tube, recent events show conclusively that the lines between vlogging, fiction and commerce are fluid and difficult to discern. [1]

Reputation systems have been developed as a technological means to harness the potential of the Internet by making trust possible in online environments. This technology is used on many well-known sites. eBay’s feedback system, for instance, allows both the buyer and seller in a transaction rate each other, and the cumulative ratings are available for perusal by any eBay user attempting to determine whether to enter into a transaction with a particular individual. Amazon also uses a variation of a reputation system, allowing users of the site to submit their reviews of materials. A reviewer may rise to the rank of “top reviewer” based on feedback of other users, while all users come to understand that a reviewer’s status is predictive of the helpfulness of her review. Slashdot.org has a similarly dynamic reputation system in place, where site users submit and review news items as well as actively reviewing the contributions of others. Users of the site are able to modify their settings to show only top-rated items, and top-rated authors acquire “karma points” which increase the weight of their reviews and ratings. In each of these systems, the “reputation” of an individual is established by meeting the needs/expectations of other users, whether for trustworthy buyer/seller behaviour, reliable reviews, or a good eye for interesting and newsworthy items.

The use of reputation systems in online dating is somewhat less intuitive than its use in other arenas, because the “product” being judged is less clear. On eBay, the performance of a particular contract is rated. Although there is not originating contract in the Amazon sense, ratings of a particular reviewer are based on how well her product has met the desires/needs of the user. Slashdot.org’s reputation rankings are similarly performance-based, with status incrementally built through accurately representing and satisfying the desires of users of the site. Michele White has noted how “Amazon’s personalization options seem to allow spectators, who are depicted as active users, to write into the system and program it according to their desires.” [2] In the recent introduction of reputation systems to online dating sites we see even more clearly the encoding of desire and consequent regulation of performance.

The Manifesto for the Reputation Society claims that “when, in colloquial language, we speak of a person’s ‘good reputation’ we are implicitly claiming that the person fulfills many of his or her local society’s expectations of good social behavior – typically including qualities like honesty, reliability, ‘good moral character’, and competence.” [3]

As Lees recognizes, while ‘reputation’ for a man invokes social and cultural qualities, for a womyn ‘reputation’ has always denoted sexual behaviour. [4] This particularly gendered implication of ‘reputation’ in the arenas of sexuality and dating is further exacerbated by the context of the online dating environment. Although both men and womyn use online dating sites, research indicates that compared to Internet users in general, online daters are more likely to be male. [5] In addition, all users of these sites are products of our inherently sexist culture, which necessarily informs their responses to the world and to each other. Sexism exerts a constituting force on our identity, as it is “continually endorsed and celebrated by the dominant culture. The mass media, the daily press, pornographic magazines and videos all reinforce the objectification of women’s bodies and celebrate a form of macho, aggressive masculinity.” [6] Accordingly, I would argue that the standards encoded into the online dating system are inherently gendered.

A negative reputation, then, is the result of failure to conform to the group standards of the dominant culture. When users of these sites fail to perform and present the gendered identities expected of them, this transgression is seen as a failure in them to uphold expected moral codes, and reputation is thus formed and assigned within the system. Accordingly, if “those who defy the dominant position will incur a form of disapproval that will lead them to be less trusted, liked, and respected in the future” , [7] then s/he who seeks to avoid a bad reputation must necessarily come to both understand and perform the expectations of the dominant position.

Reputation is not simply about purchaser choice and assisting purchasers to make choices that will best satisfy their needs – indeed, it depends for its power on a resulting regulatory force. Looked at in its full social context, reputation functions as a form of surveillance and, “like surveillance, may induce people to police themselves.” [8] The normative effect of reputation systems in online dating environments leads to a situation where “the culturally constructed ways that women express their femininity (emotional, shy, weak and nurturant) and men express their masculinity (unemotional, aggressive, strong and potent) are deemed to be natural.” [9] As such, womyn subject to these expectations do not experience themselves as deviating from individual expectations, but rather as transgressing normative standards. Similarly, men who are “disappointed” in these transactions do not experience their expectations as problematic, but rather are encouraged by the reputation system to enforce conformity with expectations rather than re-consider the expectations.

This analysis suggests that reputation systems in online dating environments function as a form of self-regulating surveillance – they set the standards of expected gendered behaviour, they act to enforce adherence to those standards by stigmatizing those who fail to conform them, and they normativize those standards, resulting in internalization of the standards and self-policing of behaviour. Far from the transformative tool of cooperation that reputation systems purport to be, in this environment at least they act to perpetuate a particular gendered and sexualized inequality.

It might be suggested that this is an isolated and site-specific issue, relevant only to online dating. I note, however, that of late there have been suggestions that reputation systems move from their current site-specific assessment status to become anchored on the individual identity instead. This would create a mobility of reputation, where individuals could build an amalgamated reputation that would be accessible to any/all persons or organizations interested in entering into a relationship with a particular individual. Before we implement any kind of mobile reputation system (or even before we increase our reliance on existing reputation systems) we must recognize their regulating power and problematize what is being regulated in order to ensure that the enforcement of stereotyped norms of behaviour and performance does not become part of this matrix.

[1] For examples, see the recent “lonelygirl15” (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/13/technology/13lonely.html?ex=1315800000&en=7eae0c5f86be8939&ei=5090) and Sunsilk embedded ad (http://www.cbc.ca/arts/media/story/2007/02/04/bridezilla-campaign.html) controversies.
[2] Michele White, The Body and The Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006) at 24 [White 2006].
[3] Hassan Masum & Yi-Chang Zheng, “Manifesto for the Reputation Society” (2004) 9:7 First Monday, online: First Monday http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue9_7/masum/index.html at 4.
[4] Sue Lees, Ruling Passions: Sexual Violence, Reputation and the Law (UK: Open University Press, 1997) at 17.
[5] See for example Robert Brym & Rhonda Lenton, Love Online: A Report on Digital Dating in Canada, Toronto 6 February 2001; Canadians and Online Dating, Leger Marketing Report, 9 August 2004.
[6] Lees, supra note 2 at 48.
[7] Cass Sunstein, “Group Judgments: Statistical Means, Deliberation , and Information Markets” (2005) 80 N.Y.U.L. Rev. 962 at 986.
[8] Howard Rheingold, Smart MOBs: The Next Social Revolution (Cambridge: Perseus, 2003) at 126.
[9] Michele White, "On the Internet, Everybody Worries that You're a Dog: The Gender Expectations and Beauty Ideals of Online Personals and Text-Based Chat" in Mary Rose WIlliams & Phil Backlund, eds. Readings in Gender Communication (Wadworth, 2003) at 286.

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Contested Identities or Controversial Medium? Authentication and YouTube.com

posted by:Patrick Derby // 02:36 PM // February 06, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


I step outside of my comfort zone, and my identity as a criminologist, to provide the following commentary on authentication and ‘new media’ technologies, specifically in the context the popular video sharing website YouTube.com. I call the text that follows a commentary, as the thoughts and ideas presented herein require further development. This being said, I look forward to your challenges and comments, so I can further develop this piece.

Authenticity and the Authentication of Identity
I believe it is important to define how I understand and use the concepts of authenticity and authentication. In order to be authentic the object in question must be genuine and reliable or trustworthy. The authenticity of an object is often determined through a process for gaining confidence that the object is what it appears to be; this process is referred to as authentication, and such processes may vary in their formality. By no stretch is authentication new, nor does it emerge with the rise of a networked society. Whether it is ancient artefacts, video statements allegedly released by terrorist organizations, or individual identities, all undergo a process of authentication. As described by Stephan Brands, “[i]n communication and transaction settings, authentication is typically understood as the process of confirming a claimed identity” (Brands, 2005: 1, emphasis in original).

Stranger Society: Authenticity in the City and Virtual World
As I have indicated above, authentication is not new to social life. While individuals once lived their lives in the absence of anonymity, industrialization and the rise of the city significantly altered the dynamics of social living. The emergence of the city facilitated the growth of individualism, privacy, and anonymity, leading some to suggest that we have become a society of strangers (Lofland, 1973). The ‘stranger society’ thesis simply suggests that most of our interactions in everyday life occur with strangers who cannot vouch for our reputation based on first-hand personal knowledge. The unknown reputations / motives of others are a source of uncertainty and insecurity, and various institutions began using surveillance technologies, such as photo identification to authenticate valid clients.

In the early 1990s, we began to see the emergence of the World Wide Web. Early proponents of the internet promised an anonymous playground, impossible to regulate. However, the more popular the internet became, the more incentive dominant institutions had to establish themselves online. In less than a decade, the vast expansion of information technology made it possible to engage in urban social life without actually being present. Shopping and banking can now conveniently be done online from the comfort of home, while professional and personal relationships (local and global) may be mediated through the internet without any actual (physical) meeting. David Lyon (2001) refers to this declining requirement for co-presence in our day-to-day interactions as the disappearance of bodies.

As internet usage has become more mainstream, so too have new social fears, which have had an impact on settings that allow for online transactions and communications. These fears include, but are not limited to, fears of identity theft and cyber-predators. First, it was quickly realized that for the majority, the internet did not make good on its promises of privacy and anonymity. Most of our online interactions require that we divulge information about ourselves, which may later be pieced back together to reveal a better picture of our real identities. As most of us are aware by now, our personal information had been commodified, and may be used for both lawful and illicit purposes. Second, fears have emerged around the threat of cyber-predators, whether it is paedophiles, child pornography rings, or even callous men hunting vulnerable women to date for financial gain.

Not surprisingly, institutions have responded to these new fears, in an attempt protect the online economy, spawning an entire industry around online privacy protection, surveillance, and authentication. Parallel to the budding online security industry emerged an ethos of online responsibilization. While I will not go into any further detail on the subject, I will acknowledge (whether I agree with them or not) that great strides have been made by institutions to authenticate the identities of individual engaging in financial transactions online. What I would like to discuss in more detail for the remainder of my commentary is authentication that occurs in online communication settings.

Many of us have had the experience of establishing an email account of some sort. Whether we choose Yahoo or Hotmail as our email service provider, or whether we open an account on Blogspot or MySpace, the process is usually similar. Each of these typically requires the user to create a self-generated username and password, which is usually verified using some form of cryptographic technology. But again, as anyone who has created such an account is aware, the information we often provide to establish such accounts is rarely, if ever, accurate.

A quick cruise through the user profiles of YouTube members confirms that I am not alone in providing inaccurate profile information. Given the above, allow me to suggest that, unlike their counterparts responsible for transactional settings, the creators of online social and communication spaces are not preoccupied with authenticating the true identities of its users. Does authentication not occur in social spaces online? This is a question I began to explore within the confines of the YouTube community.

Video Sharing and the YouTube Community
For those who have been hiding under a shell, or simply have not been paying much attention to the media hype enjoyed by the video sharing website YouTube.com, this website had its official debut in November 2005, and by summer 2006 was the fastest growing website on the internet. In November 2006, the start-up was purchased by Google Inc. for a purported $1.65 billion US. In addition to sharing music videos and movie/television clips, the YouTube allows amateurs to post videos or share their experiences and/or opinions via vlogs. Consequently, YouTube has created several internet celebrities, several of whom have gone on to experience fame beyond the YouTube community. While some of these YouTube celebrities have achieved fame as a result of their film making talents, others have done so as a result of contested online identities.

This past week a viral video posted on YouTube entitled Bride Has Massive Hair Wig Out made national headlines after receiving over 2 million hits. The clip appears to be an amateur recording of a twenty-something woman chopping her hair off during a tantrum an hour before her wedding. Debate immediately emerged regarding the authenticity of the video. As it turns out, the clip was an initiative launched by hair product company Sunsilk Canada, and the individuals in the video are aspiring Canadian actresses.

Another contested YouTube identity was that of Bree, more popularly referred to by her username lonelygirl15. Lonelygirl15 debuted on YouTube in June 2006, as a coming of age story through which the audience shares in Bree’s life experiences. In addition to her video postings on YouTube, lonelgirl15 also established a MySpace site to facilitate communications with fans. Despite these efforts to make Bree’s identity as believable as possible, in just over one month, several fans began to question the authenticity of the lonelygirl15 video blogs, and by September it was revealed that Bree, a.k.a lonelygirl15, was actually an actress named Jessica Rose. The YouTube community was divided as several members responded to the lonelygirl15 controversy. While some YouTubers became upset when Bree’s true identity was revealed, others provided their support for the series’ creative efforts.

While I am not necessarily concerned with which side individuals took in this controversy, I am struck by how YouTubers, and even members of wider society (including popular media), have demanded authentication of the identities portrayed within this virtual social space. Whereas in online financial transactions authentication is top-down, from institutions to users, authentication in the context of the examples provided from YouTube, indicate that demands for authentication in communications settings are more likely to be lateral.

Further, after examining the user profile information of selective YouTube participants, I have also come to question whether the lonelygirl15 controversy is really about Bree’s contested identity, given that it is not uncommon for YouTubers to mask their real-life identities. Ironically, even some of those who have rebuked lonelygirl15 are not forthcoming with their true identities, often providing inaccurate user profile information. Rather than these controversies being about authentic identities, I believe the controversy is more rooted in the authentication of the medium used to present video clips such as the lonelygirl15 storyline (vlogging) or the wig out bride. While the traditional medium of movie and/or film may be understood as fictional, the vlogs and viral videos presented on YouTube, for the most part, are conceptualized as authentic. Surely the creators of lonelygirl15 and the executives at Sunsilk Canada have intentionally exploited the authenticity of the YouTube medium.

Recently, a reporter asked an advertising executive whether ‘net seed’ clips such as wig out bride are going to become the ‘new normal’ of advertising. If they are, and if the post-911 ‘new normal’ is any indication of the events to come, I conclude my commentary with the following questions: 1) Will YouTube.com become a virtual battleground? And 2) Will YouTubers become the foot soldiers in a ‘war on authenticity’?


BRANDS, S. (2005) Authentication. Available online at: http://www.idtrail.org/files/Authentication_Brands.pdf

LOFLAND, L. (1973) A world of strangers: Order and action in urban public space. New York: Basic Books.

LYON, D. (2001) Surveillance society: Monitoring everyday life, Open University Press; Philadelphia.

Patrick Derby, MA Candidate, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa.

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EPIC Contributions

posted by:Jeremy Hessing-Lewis // 11:46 AM // // Commentary &/or random thoughts | Digital Identity Management | General | Walking On the Identity Trail

Three IDTrail students have recently returned from an EPIC retreat in Washington, D.C. The 2nd year law students, Jena McGill, Felix Tang, and myself (Jeremy HL), completed a January term internship at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) where they completed Freedom of Information Act requests, electronic privacy news updates, and a passionate yet well-reasoned comment to the FTC on Identity Theft.

The comment borrows an analysis from the environmental movement and argues that the costs of identity theft should be internalized upon data collectors through technology investments and reductions in overall data collection. A complete copy of our comments is available for download HERE.

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