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Wandsworth Council victim of identity fraud on Twitter?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that lists the Twitter status of local councils  in the UK. I had been told today that the link for Wandsworth Council http://twitter.com/wwcouncil was in fact not Wandsworth Council! The real Wandsworth Council which recently just started twittering is actually under the username @WandBC at http://www.twitter.com/wandbc

At first I blamed myself for making a horrible mistake for not checking first but then I checked my resource @uklocalcouncils http://twitter.com/uklocalcouncils which links to DirectGov (which is the UK’s central government website) had also linked to @wwcouncil . They possibly also thought that it was indeed Wandsworth Council.

This raises an interesting point of council identity fraud on twitter. Questions arising are:-

  1. How do we protect local councils account from being duplicated or becoming a victim of identity fraud? It was lucky in this case that they had not yet posted any tweets.
  2. Can you imagine what would happen if fraudsters started posting false information on behalf of councils?
  3. How can we overcome problems of government data on non-government servers?

Solution?

Maybe Twitter can provide governments and companies a separate registration page option and authority layout that undergoes security checks to ensure it is in fact the true account holder of the organization…

Possibility

I do however think there is a possibility that maybe a member of staff at Wandsworth was just testing Twitter and opened a dummy account but it still raises security issues. But it is all still a mystery at the moment…

Look forward to hearing your views and comments on this.

About Liz Azyan

Liz is a CREATIVE digital professional dedicated to helping individuals, governments and businesses realize their digital goals. She offers digital consultancy services on her website LizAzyan.com Liz is also a Google Fellowship Recipient (individuals selected based on their work and initiative in the arenas of technology, politics and social entrepreneurship), an invited expert panel on the Guardian’s Public Leader Network and has spoken at many public events and conferences on the subject of digital engagement.

3 comments

  1. This is a growing problem for local authorities with the growth in the use of social media. We in Derby have found that our name (and other authorities in the area) has been registered on Blogger and domains registered in our name by a company in Israel. We disputed the registration with Nominet, but they rejected the case. Our approach has been to register all of our names on as many of the social media sites as possible. As you say, there is little (currently) that can be done.

    Our own twitter account is a test account and is not ‘live’ as such (although it is listed in various places by people who have come across it). We will be redeveloping our main site in 2009, which will include social media.

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for bringing this issue to light. I was not aware of the extent of these problems until you highlighted it in your comment. This is definitely a problem that what we have seen in the past called “Domain squatting” or “cyber squatting”. Usually this happens to companies or even celebrities and some of these cases even end up in court. I will definitely write a post about this in the near future and hopefully discover some solutions. I think your approach to register all possible domain names is a great way to overcome it, but I would suggest publicizing your social media accounts on your the front page of local council website (like Barnet council and St. Helens Council is doing) and advise people that these are the only official council accounts and any other accounts are simply not associated with your council.

      I’ve found that by clearly marketing your councils social media brand along with its goal using names like for example ‘camdentalking’ or ‘derbylistening’ creates stronger participation and function for each social media outlet you wish to use. And its also becomes a great civic engagement tool if people understand the use or function of each outlet clearly. When developing social media channels, its important to look at each channel serving a specific tool for engagement and not a duplication of the brand you already have like your main local council website.

      Hope this helps!
      Look forward to find out about the progress of your councils redevelopment site.

  2. Hi Tim,
    Thanks for bringing this issue to light. I was not aware of the extent of these problems until you highlighted it in your comment. This is definitely a problem that what we have seen in the past called “Domain squatting” or “cyber squatting”. Usually this happens to companies or even celebrities and some of these cases even end up in court. I will definitely write a post about this in the near future and hopefully discover some solutions. I think your approach to register all possible domain names is a great way to overcome it, but I would suggest publicizing your social media accounts on your the front page of local council website (like Barnet council and St. Helens Council is doing) and advise people that these are the only official council accounts and any other accounts are simply not associated with your council.

    I've found that by clearly marketing your councils social media brand along with its goal using names like for example 'camdentalking' or 'derbylistening' creates stronger participation and function for each social media outlet you wish to use. And its also becomes a great civic engagement tool if people understand the use or function of each outlet clearly. When developing social media channels, its important to look at each channel serving a specific tool for engagement and not a duplication of the brand you already have like your main local council website.

    Hope this helps!
    Look forward to find out about the progress of your councils redevelopment site.

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