Claim your ID

I heard a report the other day that identity theft is on the rise here in South Africa at a pace that rivals identity theft in the United States. Guarding against identity theft generally requires taking steps to prevent personal and identifying information from falling into the hands of would-be identity thieves and it is a good idea to find out how you can protect your identity better.

Now, in the online world protecting your identity can be a little tricky, if anything, because it is so easy to spoof someone’s identity and set up a fake blog or website. A number of celebs online have come across fake sites set up in their names, typically on MySpace. One example is Leo Laporte guy behind the TWiT network. Leo discovered that there is a fake page about him on MySpace a little while ago.

This poses a problem, not just from the perspective of potential fraud, but also because people increasingly run searches on popular search engines, like Google, to research people before dates or, perhaps more importantly, job interviews. Imagine what could happen if some joker created a fake page about you and published disinformation about you in an effort to discredit you. All things being equal online, if a potential employer finds that site and believes it to be by or about you, you would lose a potential job or opportunity. You can imagine the ways this could go badly.

A need clearly arose for a service which could enable you to determine which sites and services are authentic and which are not. ClaimID was born from this need. So what is ClaimID?

ClaimID is a service that lets you manage your online identity.

Imagine that you are applying for a job. You know that your prospective employer is going to search for your name online, and since you’re a rational person, that worries you. How will your employer know what online stuff is actually about you, and not about that other person who shares your name? And what if the good stuff about you online doesn’t mention your full name, or uses a name you no longer go by (such as a maiden name)? How would your prospective employer ever find it? Why do you have to lose out in the eyes of that employer? And the worst part is there’s no way for you to easily influence what search engines say about you.

Enter claimID. ClaimID is a service that lets you claim the information that is about you online. That information is then associated with your name, providing folks an easy way to see what is and isn’t about you online. In doing so, you get to influence the search engines, and provide people more relevant information when they search for you. It’s time to reclaim some power back from the search engines. ClaimID is about letting you have some say in what search engines say about you.

The concept is pretty straightforward. You register on ClaimID and create a page on which you list al the sites and services that are about you and by you, or not, as the case may be. You then embed code in your various sites to enable the service to authenticate your claims over those sites. Below is an extract of Leo Laporte’s ClaimID page as an illustration of how the service works:

On this page Leo has made it clear which sites are his and even which sites are the fake ones. You can categorise sites and services in a way you feel best distinguishes the various types and attributions that may apply to you (for example, Leo has a separate category for authentication and one for his sites) and you can determine which sites are by you, about you or in some other way have something (or nothing) to do with you. Once you have established your identity with ClaimID, search engines should list your ClaimID page among the top results when someone searches for you. One of the reasons for this, I believe, is that the code you would embed in your sites links back to the ClaimID page and this boosts your rankings in many search engines.

Leo and Amber MacArthur, Leo’s co-host on a podcast/netcast called Inside the Net interviewed the two guys behind ClaimID a little while ago. You can listen to that podcast episode by using the player below:

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It is becoming increasingly difficult to manage your online identity and short of never having an online presence, you need to be able to manage it. This is really one of the few services online that give you as much control over your online identity. Give it a try and let us know what you think?

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