Dangers of Personal Branding & Negligence of Social Networks

Twitter, Impersonation and Damages to Reputation

Social Networks usually don’t care if they damage your reputation

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

We all know that you cannot believe all that is out on the Internet. On the Internet, just like in traditional society, some have no better purpose than to tarnish other people’s reputations. Others write unsubstantiated articles supporting a product -like a health supplement- and they do so with such authority that the naïve would quickly believe it. But if you look carefully, there is no scientific proof of what they claim is the truth. There is also the unavoidable fact that somewhere out there has your same name. When you read this story you will learn from this experience and leave with valuable actionable advise.

Recently, I started writing on the Medium platform, and because it offers to link your profile to your Twitter account, I thought it would be nice to do so. Now, fragile freedom of speech and a questionable justice system are a bad combination, and it applies to the country in which I reside.

I decided to claim my name on Twitter -a bit late for what it seems- and pointed my browser to the social network’s sign-up page.

Due to Twitter’s well-known tweet-length limitation, a Twitter handle with my name would make it a bit unpractical. And I can only imagine how it is for people in countries with predominantly long family names. Therefore, I decided to go for my initial and last name, which would suit me best. Unfortunately, there was already an account from a Daniel using that handle.

The most convenient Twitter handle for my account-to-be was taken. A few other name combinations I could think of were not of my liking either. I settled for my first and last names; I wasn’t planning on tweeting much either. I must point out that my name is rare, and my last name is not that common either.

Then to my great surprise, there was already a Twitter account with both first and last names! It had no profile photo and no header photo either, one of those ghost accounts that stay there for no purpose.

The biggest surprise for me was that the full name handle I settled for; was not only taken but suspended! That means that whoever created that account -it wasn’t me!- stepped on someone’s toes, or maybe on Twitter’s sensitiveness. All those big corporations become like banana republic dictators.

My Investigation on the Impersonation

Further investigation on my part revealed that the account may have been created with what appears to be one of my former Yahoo email addresses that I no longer use, that is judging only by the three disclosed letters and the length of the email address. But, the former profile isn’t mine and additionally, it has some name in Arabic letters. The last time I checked I have zero knowledge of Arabic!

I searched for a translation of the Arabic name on the account associated with the handle bearing my name. It apparently means “Old Man of the Mountains” and was some character of XII century Arabic world during the crusades.

Then I also found out that there had also been an account (which no longer exists) of that name but in Latin alphabet. So, it looks very suspicious to me considering how Twitter is used to create thousands of fake accounts for all sorts of purposes and propaganda.

Further analysis on my part indicated that years ago, there was a large data breach of Yahoo servers. I recall receiving an email regarding a Yahoo Class Action Lawsuit as a response to the large data breaches that happened on their servers between 2013 and 2016 due to “inadequate security measures”. According to the sources, in 2014 Yahoo announced that about 500 million user accounts had been breached!.

And so, that is the only logical explanation as to why a Twitter account exists with my name in its handle but with a different name as account name.

A data breach on a server with inadequate security measures doesn’t save you even with a strong password!

For many years already, I use strong passwords on my accounts and I do change them periodically.

Do Twitter or Yahoo care?

So, what now? I am disturbed because, being a logical man, I always think of the ramifications of actions. What if I am looking for a new job. People that do hiring are sometimes too lazy to investigate thoroughly. So, what if they run into that suspended profile that is not mine? If a person is quick to arrive at wrong conclusions, would assume it was me.

While Twitter thinks they are doing a good service by showing an empty profile with someone’s name and point out that they suspended the account. Has Twitter thought that perhaps, in doing so, they are also damaging the reputation of someone else with the same name? Probably not! Twitter doesn’t care!

A sane person would not trust his/her identification document to a social network or to a corporation like Google.

Faced with the fact that Twitter can be damaging my reputation because somebody else used my name, I wanted to take action. I fired up their contact form to substantiate my claims. And then, I faced a different conundrum.

Twitter wants me to send them a copy of a personal ID. To me, Twitter is like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and all those big corporations making money out of our information. I wouldn’t trust them with a copy of my document. I have no guarantee that they would not store it someplace, where it may prey to someone with ill intentions. If they scheduled a short video conference to prove I have that name, that would be something I could consider.

Actionable Advise

  • Whether you claim your name on a social network or not, will not make you immune to identity theft, impersonation or the likes.
  • If you do use your own real name on the Internet, you will be more prone to suffer some sort of cyber problem.
  • Always use strong passwords, you don’t need to remember them anymore as there are many free reputable password managers out there! Laziness is not an excuse to compromise your cyber security.
  • If you detect someone impersonating you, report it immediately with the network in question. Also make it known to your contacts.
  • Never send a copy (scan, photo, etc.) or a personal document or identification to any organization you don’t know personally.
  • Whenever you become aware of a data breach, make sure you secure your accounts.

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