Lie Online to Protect Your Identity, British Official Says
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A British government official has told members of the public to lie about themselves on the Internet —and has drawn flak from at least one Member of Parliament as a result.
"When you put information on the Internet, do not use your real name, your real date of birth," Andy Smith, who heads Internet security at the Cabinet Office, said at a recent conference, reports BBC News.
"When you are putting information on social networking sites, don't put real combinations of information, because it can be used against you," Smith added.
However, Smith pointed out that his advice didn't extend to government websites, where, he insisted, users should always be honest.
But his remarks drew criticism from Labour Party MP Helen Goodman, who said she was "genuinely shocked" by Smith’s remarks, which she called "totally outrageous."
"It is exactly what we don't want," Goodman said. "We want more security online. It's anonymity which facilitates cyberbullying, the abuse of children."
Many security experts recommend not putting personal details on Facebook and other social networks, and to lie when filling pre-arranged answers to password-reset questions such as "What was your mother's maiden name?"
However, Smith, who explained how online criminals use a combination of names, address and birth dates in order to commit identity theft, was applauded by policy expert Merlin Hay, Earl Erroll, chairman of the Digital Policy Alliance, who said Smith's idea was "a very good bit of advice."
Culture minister Ed Vaizey, on the other hand, remained skeptical.
"The way of viewing this issue is that we should work with Facebook to ensure people feel secure using those sites and that there is not a threat of identity theft," Vaizey said.
Facebook, which has a very strict policy against using false identities, disagreed with Smith’s views.
Simon Milner, Facebook’s head of policy in the U.K., said he tried to persuade Smith to change his stance in what he described as a "vigorous chat."
The Cabinet Office, which Smith works for, is a government agency responsible for supporting Britain's prime minister and the other members of the Cabinet, who collectively act as the national executive.
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