McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams

Does Identity affect crime online?

The internet has removed many of the political and economical restraints that limit the expression of ideas in more traditional mediums.  One attraction of the internet is the level of anonymity the architecture affords its users.  The main argument for greater regulation lies in the undeniable growth in 'cyber crime', much of which is facilitated by the degree of anonymity users enjoy online.    Lawrence Lessig's ideas of regulation and the online environment will be used to assess the impact identity can have in the online department, and how this affects the nature of crime online.  This will be done by theoretically assessing how an internet architecture that enables total anonymity would affect criminal behaviour online.  Then an architecture that requires full identification will be contrasted.  It will become clear from the affect that such polemic online architectures in relation to identity have, to user behaviour online that the fundamental nature of many types of cyber crime can be best explained with reference to identity.

Any study of online crime and regulation would not be complete without reference to the numerous works of Lawrence Lessig.  This study will utilise his ideas on the four constraints which affect regulation on the internet.  These are described as laws, social norms, the market, and the actual code of the internet (or its architecture).  It is the latter's importance which Lessig places most emphasis on, as he believes this can be altered to reflect any values so chosen.  Based on this claim, this study will take the approach of assessing the benefits and disadvantages of different theoretical internet architectures in order to understand the affect that identity on user's online behaviour.  Such theoretical assessment will answer the question of whether anonymity, identity or more importantly the lack of identity affects crime online.

The lack of victim identity, as well as the nature of many cyber crimes being committed again, big businesses brings us onto cyber crime as a new label or subculture.  The online world has a huge culture of its own, and the media has also taken a prevailing view in glorifying many cyber crimes (noticeably hacking) as a victory of the little man over big businesses and governments, without any real victims.  This interpretation of cyber crime differs significantly to others in that rather than explaining online crime's proliferation as the lack of identification, this is an example of a sub-culture which views such crimes not as an opportunity as under the classical theory of crime, but instead views such acts as completely different to orthodox and typical offline crimes.  Such cultures attach glory to the skill required to hack a particularly system to defraud a large company, in contrast to the stigma attached to mugging a real, physical human being on the street in the offline world.  Essentially then, many cyber crimes can be explained as users seeking to create identity in the online world through their technical skill and audacity, rather than merely opportunists or criminals encouraged by the financial demands of society.

In conclusion then, the incentives and ability to commit cyber crimes are hugely influenced by the differences in identity offline and identity online.  Such online crimes can clearly fit within existing criminological frameworks, but it is difficult as with any broad theory to apply a single perspective across the entirety of cyber crimes.  Such crimes simply differ too much, as do users, and it perhaps the inability to identify cyber criminals and users willing to commit online crimes that is a challenge not only for the authorities, but also criminology in its future study of cyber crime. E3406

Related Links
To Top