Moving Online: Your Packets, Your ISP, Your Identity



Christopher Parsons

When a person clicks a hyperlink they manifest their liberty by expressing a preference, and in the process transmit personal data to a particular website. Expressing one’s liberty is essential to the development of personal identity, but when it comes to digital expressions of self-hood what (and who) operates between the click of the button and data’s destination? This paper investigates how Internet Service Providers’ efforts to ‘secure’ and ‘manage’ digital networks, specifically as it pertains to data analysis technologies, can impact the development of individuals’ personal identities. With increasingly sophisticated data analysis technologies being deployed across digital networks online actions are associated with discrete public identities, making it increasingly challenging to hide one’s ‘real’ or ‘analogue’ identity while online . This coalescence of digital and analogue identities threatens to transform the Internet from a fertile environment that is conducive to identity-formation to one where self-censorship before the gaze of the public is commonplace.

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