Let me begin by stating that I am making this entire story up on how to create a new identity.
Consider that you are in charge of sending sleeper spies into the US. The year is 1983, and it is getting harder and harder to produce alternate identities due to the growth of identity databases.
It was simpler ten years ago to arrive in the country and apply for a driver’s license, Social Security card, and bank account, possibly using the identity of a person who had died as a young child. These days, it’s more complicated. And you are aware that the pattern will only persist.
Identify farming is what it is.
You create a few little children. For them, you apply for Social Security numbers. As time passes, you open bank accounts for them, prepare their tax reports, register them to vote, and apply for credit cards in their name. You have a few identities ready and waiting for some genuine people to assume them 25 years later.
There are, of course, specific difficulties. Perhaps you should ask them to sign their names as mothers or, at the very least, as parents. Doctors are required to complete birth certificates. Perhaps you must complete documents attesting to the fact that you teach these kids at home.
You’ll want to use their financial identity, such as adding money to their bank accounts, taking money out of ATMs, using their credit cards to make purchases, and so on. And you’ll need to provide the addresses of some kind, even if it’s just a mailbox.
Driver’s licenses and photo IDs cannot be obtained in their name. But it doesn’t matter because more than 20 million adult citizens in the US lack photo IDs. But aside from that, I am at a loss as to why identity farming wouldn’t be successful in creating an alternate identity.
The actual question is: Is there any aspect of your life for which you are required to appear?
As I said, I made everything up. I don’t have any proof that anyone is genuinely engaging in this. A criminal organization is unlikely to take this action because the reward horizon of 25 years is too far away. The same reasoning applies to terrorist groups; it is not worthwhile.
Even while it could have been more difficult to justify after the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, it might have been helpful for the KGB, and it might have been a tempting option for current intelligence rivals like China.
Immortals might potentially use this method to perpetuate themselves by creating their children, taking on those identities over time, and then eliminating their parents. They might even appear in their driver’s license photos while sporting blue spiked hair for the boy and a beard for the father.
This is supposedly a popular concept in Highlander fan literature. The goal is not to invent a new threat for a movie storyline but rather to highlight the critical place that data now plays in our daily lives. We all have a data shadow that follows us around, and more and more institutions are interacting with our data shadows rather than with us, I’ve said in the past, creating an alternate identity
When we apply for a driver’s license or passport, we occasionally cross paths with our data shadows, and earlier, less secure exchanges verify those contacts. The rest of the world ignores the tenuous bond between us and our plastic cards, assuming that our photo IDs permanently attach us to our data shadows. (And REAL-ID won’t help, either.)
My impression is that our data shadows are becoming different from us and are taking on a life of their own. Our shadows are the current focus; we are incidental. We might even lose our need for these shadows as our society depends more and more on them.
Without us, our data shadows can lead perfectly regular lives.
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