Daily Archives: Sunday 23rd August 2015

The ‘Prof on a Train’ Game

The Shazam for People discussion revisited as an article, ‘Identity Voyeurism‘, in September 2015’s British Computer Society (BCS) IT Now Magazine, made all the more relevant by recent breaches of personal privacy

Grout BCS IT Now Identity Voyeurism 1

There’s more than one type of identity ‘crisis’.  Conventional identity ‘theft’ is one thing but what of identity ‘voyeurism’?  How much of ‘us’ is ‘in the shop window’ anyway?  Are we in control?  What are the risks?  And where’s it heading?

The next time you’re on public transport, try playing the ‘Prof on a Train’ (PoaT) game.  (It doesn’t really have to be a train or an academic but it’s a good example to work with.)  Take a look at the person opposite you.  Armed only with your senses, intelligence, intuition and an Internet connection, how much can you find out about them?

Well, if they’re quietly dozing in the corner, unremarkably dressed, with no distinguishing features whatsoever, you’ll probably lose.  However, any activity at all or any visible clues might give you a chance.  Are they doing, reading, saying or wearing anything?  Who’s with them?  Are they easier to identify?  Where did they get on and do you know where they’re going?  Anything odd?  Here’s the basic strategy, on which PoaT is based:

They’re reading an academic paper on a certain subject (X) and you know where they got on (Y).  A quick look at the photos on the ‘Department of X’ webpage for the ‘University of Y’ might be enough.

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