A top civil servant has called for Brits to fake their online itentity to keep themselves safe.
The ironically named “Andy Smith” is apparently an internet security chief at the Cabinet Office. We are not sure if Mr Smith has given his real name, or if that is just a sock puppet for someone else.
Smith said that people should only give accurate details to trusted sites such as government departments, who would never give it out by leaving a thumb drive in an office car park. Nor would they ever forget their laptops in a pub, because that is the sort of thing that private companies do.
Smith said that names and addresses posted on social networking sites “can be used against you” by criminals.
However Labour MP Helen Goodman said the advice was “totally outrageous” because it promotes crime.
Goodman said that there needed to be more online sercurity as it is anonymity which facilitates cyber-bullying and the abuse of children.
Public officials should not be going around telling people to be anonymous, she said.
Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland, in the North-East of England, said she had been contacted by constituents who have been the victims of cyber-bullying on major social networking sites by people hiding behind fake names.
Smith is in charge of security for what he described the “largest public services network in Europe”, which will eventually be accessed by millions of people in the UK.
He just thinks that giving fake details to social networking sites was “a very sensible thing to do”. When you put information on the internet he advised not to use your real name or your real date of birth.
However, he did add that internet users should always give accurate information when they were filling in government forms on the internet, such as tax returns.
According to the BBC, Culture minister Ed Vaizey said he had not seen Mr Smith’s remarks but told the BBC that he “wouldn’t encourage people to put false identities on the internet”.
Simon Milner, Facebook’s head of policy in the UK and Ireland, was not particularly happy at Smith’s comments.
He apparently had a “vigorous chat” with the Cabinet Office official afterwards to persuade him to revise his view.
We guess if people put false information on Facebook, it would screw up the company’s attempts to target advertising. Or make life a little trickier for officials involved in the snooper’s charter.