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Different Types of Identity

Identity cards, to be introduced for British nationals and residents circa 2009, will contain identity information, including biometric data. Both its legal requirement and the inclusion of this biometric data have caused a great deal of consternation.

Identity theft is, in actuality, a very broad term that defines many different types of crime. For the purpose of this essay this author shall restrict themself to the most common three forms as identified by Cole (Cole p 133). Financial identity theft involves using a victims identity to create new credit lines to exploit for financial gain." Criminal identity theft occurs where, a person awaiting arrest or charges using another's identity to evade legal ramifications. Identity cloning occurs when imposters create a whole new life for themselves using another's identity. This can include everything from job, marriage, schooling to taxes and pensions and all under the assumed identity of another individual.

"The true damage lies in the sense of personal violation, psychological trauma, possible medical care, family issues, and other ill effects, which of course include the time and expense involved in trying to restore one's financial identity." (Cole p128) The psychological impact of identity theft is no doubt real and can be severe. It is possible to conceive of a victim reaching the realisation that identity is reducible to a few strings of numbers and a mother's maiden name. That maybe ones sense of self is, in this digital age, inextricable tied to sequences of numbers. However, this author finds it unlikely that many would suffer greatly from this most existential of concerns. Maybe the intellectual implications will filter and diffuse throughout society and influence, maybe create, whole new conceptions and senses of self. Maybe future personal identity will in fact be influenced, nay defined, by credit card numbers and maiden names. This author has neither the time in this essay, nor the psychological understanding to even attempt to elucidate the possible ramifications of number defined identity, however this author does feel qualified to comment that, for now and for most, identity theft is an economic and criminal experience, not an existential crisis shaking the foundations of personal identity to its core. Identity theft's impact upon personal identity would seem minimal to this author, certainly at the present time though, of course, an impact is felt. It is possible that the effects of said impact may grow and spread and, given time, duly effect conceptions of personal identity.

Identity is not stolen like a purse or automobile. Thus it would be easy to say that identity theft and identity cards are nothing more than criminal acts and a passport that one is forced to carry. However that is an oversimplification. "The term 'identity' is the historians, not that of contemporaries. Status, kinship, metier, and place defined individuals in early modern Europe, not identity. If identity theft was impossible at that time, so, more importantly, was the self defined as 'identity'." (Poster p103) Definitions of identity and self shift through the ages. Identity is mutable, transient. It is very possible that identity theft and identity cards may challenge the comfortable notions of personal identity in the near or distant future. For today they are an irritant, at worst, a horrible crime, for the future maybe personal identity really will be defined by those long sequences of numbers. I for one would hope not, but times march is inexorable.

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