What’s your online linguistic identity like?
Unless you communicate solely in pictures, you have a linguistic identity. And it can be traced back to you by forensic linguistic experts, i.e., people who read Twitter for a living. (Whatever happened to being a fireman?)
Forensic linguistic experts are tech geeks who read the ‘fingerprint’ of your particular SMS, Tweet and email styles. They come up with profiles based on word use, sentence length, capitalisation and even unusual or omitted words. (That’s the last time I use ‘draconian’ in a Tweet.)
Forensic linguistic experts can be used for both good or evil or plain old gossip. JK Rowling was outed for writing a murder mystery called The Cuckoo’s Calling under the name Robert Galbraith. After a rumour spread on Twitter, investigators looked into the matter. They claimed that despite the insipid title and bodice-ripper cover art, the content was too slick for a first-time novelist.
Forensic linguistic experts don’t just do what they do for a ‘Told ya so.’ Murder cases have been swayed by comparing different email styles. Experts with computer programs identified misogynistic trolling attackers of two women, and the bad guys got arrested. (The women were campaigning to represent more than one famous British woman on the money.)
The fact that computers play such a big part in breaking down a linguistic id hints at even further automation. Monitoring writing style patterns and content is just another new fun way that our privacy has been compromised. Yippee!
If not Twitter, then what?
You can join the dark ranks of the Tor Project, which makes spaghetti of any electronic trails you may leave. The only problem is that unless you radically change your writing style, forensic linguists can still identify you.
For quick anonymous messages, you can become part of Snapchat,whose messages self-destruct ten seconds after being opened. Early adopters, teens, sexters and the criminal element love the disposability of Snapchat. battleface likes it because journalists can send sensitive text, still images and video without leaving a trace in their browsers’ histories.
Millennial interest has got Facebook sweating $3 billion bullets. Snapchat isn’t selling. The under-25s who came up with the idea think there are big bucks out there for online anonymity. That is, if nobody thinks to take a screenshot.